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Executives around the NHL have reportedly been quite concerned since it was revealed last week that the Arizona Coyotes were in advanced talks to play at a 5,000-seat university rink for the next few seasons.
Due to the City of Glendale opting out of its lease agreement with the team, the Coyotes have to be out of their current home at Gila River Arena by June 30. As a result, one idea being thoroughly discussed is the team playing at Arizona State University’s arena until a new NHL barn in Tempe is ready in 3-4 years.
While fans have openly mocked the idea given the fact the arena barely seats 5,000 people — 10K-11K less than the average NHL rink — the team and league are reportedly very serious about the plan, as gophnx.com first reported last Thursday.
“As we have said many times, we are completely committed to building our future in Arizona,” the Coyotes said in a statement in response to the report. “As part of that process, we are excited to be exploring some great temporary arena options here before we move in to a new permanent home in the Valley.”
According to The Athletic, some executives aren't so optimistic about these temporary options, namely the ASU proposal, with the main concern being the Coyotes not being able to maximize revenue playing in such a small venue for such a long period of time.
“Just a nightmare all around,” one executive said of the proposal to the Athletic, with several other execs calling the plan “embarrassing.”
Many, according to The Athletic, are understandably concerned with the impact this could have on hockey-related revenues, which affects everything from organizations' bottom lines to player salary to escrow. The largest historical driver of HRR has historically have been in-person purchases like tickets, food, drinks and merchandise, The Athletic added. The wide-scale implications are quite evident, but that doesn't seem to be detering the commissioner one bit.
Gary Bettman's absolutely unwavering dedication to Arizona amid horrendous attendance and management issues has more than confused many fans and those covering the game for years now, and it's just as perplexing for some executives, too.
For this anonymous team exec, the Coyotes' future in the desert looks bleak.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point the league had to bite the bullet and force the current ownership to make a move or sell,” the executive said. “They’ve botched the situation in Glendale. What’s to say anyone believes they’ll actually get something done in three or four years?”
As of now, we haven’t heard the perspectives from players on this, other than Brad Marchand who poked fun at the Coyotes organization on Twitter. However, if they do indeed end up playing out of Arizona State next season, you can expect to hear more players and money-losing owners speak out.
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