I noticed a couple of months ago that the Oilers site that I used to write on, Low on Oil, has been taken down. Fortunately I was able to get into the back end of the site and retrieve some of the posts I wrote back during 2009.
This ole site has suffered from a lack of ambition, a bit of writer’s block and a lack of effort. I would offer up some excuses but they don’t matter. I would suggest the possibility of new entries soon, but I am not sure that is true. I have started a couple of things the past month that aren’t good.
I find it interesting that as I read more and more great sports writing, I seem to have lost my voice. I like writing posts with a statisitical slant, but find my old theories have been largely replaced by better theories put forward by others. It has been great from a learning perspective, but leaves me a bit dry on the original ideas front.
Anyways, I thought I would throw up a few of the posts that I liked from the Low on Oil days. This first one details my trip down to Phoenix to watch the Coyotes and Cardinals. Most of what I wrote holds true today. The deep playoff run this year doesn’t change the fact that the Phoenix area cannot sustain a NHL team. Perhaps some can admire Gary Bettman’s determined effort to keep the team from moving, but it is an exercise in delusion. Any owner dumb enough to keep the team in Phoenix better have a couple hundred million dollars they are willing to throw away.
With the Oilers up against the Coyotes this upcoming Monday, I thought I’d share some non-Oilers fare with you this week.
I just got back from a boys weekend in Phoenix which included taking in the Habs-Coyotes game last Thursday night. Most of us have a pretty heated view of the situation (MOVE THEM TO CANADA NOW!!!) but few have had a chance to see what’s shaking up close. I thought I’d share my experience with you.
We all know the facts by heart by now. Team is losing a tonne of money; owner files for bankruptcy; team has a bum lease out in Glendale; Glendale is in the middle of nowhere; NHL is in the process of buying the team. I heard that Bettman was down in Phoenix meeting with Glendale city officials yesterday, still talking the talk of a team in Phoenix for years to come. Well Gary, I’ve got news for you buddy. That team is dying a quick death despite what was a surprising set of facilities out there. Shockingly fantastic facilities even.
But we Canadian hockey fans, what do we know? We don’t even know how to pronounce the team’s name! Coyotes (Kye-oats), not (Kye-oat-tees). Who knew we could learn something about hockey from an American? Go Yotes!
So we’re all out in Tempe, which is southeast of Phoenix. Glendale is to the northwest, a full 40km’s away. I’ve pasted in a local area map below for reference. At best it is a 35 minute drive. Basically it is like going to Edmonton airport from downtown Edmonton to watch a game.
Tempe is where the Arizona State University is located. Scottsdale is where all the affluent are located. Both spots have a long, long drive to get to the game, especially a 7pm game which involves negotiating rush hour traffic. That is what we were up against.
We struggled a bit with getting organized and we left the hotel around 6.15pm. Tight up against it we had a driver willing to take about 9 of us out to the game. Total cost round trip was US$230. We heard taxis were a minimum of $60 each way so it wasn’t a horrible deal. A few buddies went to the NASCAR race on the Saturday and they paid $100 one way due to traffic!! Long story short, the notion that this rink is way the heck out in the middle of nowhere is spot on. If you have any thoughts of making a night of things and taking a cab so you can toss down some pops, you are paying $120 before you’ve stepped in the rink.
We manage to roll in to the arena about 7.05pm. Not bad we thought. We might miss a few minutes we thought. We go to the ticket window and there are literally hundreds of people in line to buy tickets. They had some deal where military folks could get free tickets and it clogged up the non-military ticket windows. They’ve got a big screen outside and the game is on with sound which made the wait not too bad. We get our tickets just as the first period ends. Yep, it took a good 30-40 minutes to get through the line.
In the meantime, I have to say that the first impression of this complex was something akin to awe. In the same complex is the new Arizona Cardinals stadium and something that I can only describe as ‘Citywalk’. If you’ve ever been to Universal Studios, outside the park they have dozens of bars and restaurants all together on a main outdoor kind of walkway. Well this complex had the same thing. All kinds of brights lights, music blasting and huge, huge bars and restaurants. I guess the theory is that because the rink is in the middle of nowhere, they need to build an entertainment city to get people out there. Great idea if only they had some semblance of public transportation for the area. They don’t.
Anyways, we’ve now got our tickets in hand. $30 got us row 7 of section 209 (upper deck) and all the food and pop we could handle. $30!! You get what you pay for in terms of food, but the seats were great. The whole arena was great actually. The seats are steeply graded kind of like Rexall which made every seat in the house a pretty darn good seat. I didn’t really get to tour around the confines of the rink, but it was probably the nicest joint I’ve been in.
Announced attendance for the game was 10,064 (capacity 17,800), though I use the terms ‘announced attendance’ loosely. There was no mention of attendance during the game and I had to look it up over at nhl.com. I’m a little surprised at the number as I had guessed 8,500. If they had 50 corporate suites, 35 of them were completely empty and the other 15 were partially used. The upper deck was fairly busy and the lower bowl had some spots with a lot of fans. But the point is they had 10 thousand fans for the Montreal Canadiens! If they can’t come close to a full house for the Habs, they aren’t getting any full houses my friends.
The fans themselves were mainly from Canada and many in town to cheer on Montreal. It was a bit odd as almost every team in the league was represented in the crowd. As best as I can guess there are a bunch of transplants and snow-birds from all over. Rather than cheer for the Coyotes then stick to their team and wear their jerseys out to the game. I think I counted 4 old guys in Oiler jerseys.
The game itself was quiet, other than the Habs fans who even got a chant of ‘na-na-na-na, hey hey hey, goodbye’ going at the end of the game. There weren’t enough people there to really get excited and it didn’t seem like a lot of the fans really understood what they were watching. It was all kind of sad to be honest. Great arena with a decent team, but absolutely no hope of survival.
The above said, I totally get why the city of Glendale is pissed off at the whole thing. The taxpayers didn’t just build an arena, they built a little entertainment city. And with the Cardinals only playing 8 Sundays a year, they are really dependent on having the Coyotes there as an anchor tenant. Yes they attract concerts and other events, but they need those 41 home games a year to attract people to the area. The team leaves town and a lot of businesses suffer and they may well end up with a complete mess.
Habs ended up winning 4-2 and we left impressed with the rink and a bit sad for the Coyotes. The team is practically giving away tickets to see hockey’s most storied franchise and no one cares at all. Unless some mobster from Russia wants to buy the team to funnel money and create tax losses, there is no one who is going to buy that team and leave it in Phoenix. It just can’t be done.
My take is that it isn’t just a case of the rink being out in Glendale. The Phoenix area is so spread out with virtually no public transit which means that the team is going to struggle no matter where the rink is located. The weather is perfect and the people are tanned and relaxed. I don’t know why anyone would decide to spent the night inside a chilly rink unless they really, really loved hockey. And the simple fact of the matter is that very few people in the area truly care.