Does it seem like every time the NHL-to-Seattle movement starts to pick up steam something happens that indicates a long-term setback? That every time a positive development comes along it’s quickly squashed and forever silenced? If you’re starting to get that feeling then maybe you aren’t surprised by the news that the Arizona Coyotes have a new two-year lease agreement to stay in Glendale. Of course they do – nothing will ever go our way!
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So to recap the last couple months’ worth of excitement: the Coyotes decide to opt out of their lease, making them free to play wherever they wanted this coming season. About the same time, the NHL decides to formally open bidding for new expansion teams. And already we know neither of those roads are going to go through Seattle. The Coyotes are staying, and the NHL is (probably) expanding to Las Vegas and Quebec City.
It’s a setback, all right, though it’s important to remember that the odds of the NHL coming to Seattle anytime soon were always long. The Coyotes were “available” only in the most technical of senses, as most expected them to find a way to stay put. That there was a non-zero chance of a quick move was what we were all excited about. It was never particularly likely to happen.
The first impulse is to be disappointed, and that’s okay. It’s kind of a bummer – something could have happened, except it didn’t. But look at the deal the Coyotes signed. It’s for two years. Typical arena lease agreements are for much, much longer terms – fifteen years, twenty years, things like that. The Coyotes are securely in place for the immediate term. But when those two years are up, all these questions will once again be raised.
Is Phoenix a viable NHL market? That’s been an open question for a while now, and it will continue to be for the forseeable future. The Coyotes have two years to convince the world that they
can stay put without becoming a financial liability. Now they don’t have to hurriedly move to Seattle overnight. Now they can put off their tough decisions, if only for a little while.
The Coyotes have a deal to stay in Glendale for two years. This doesn’t mean they won’t one day move to Seattle, but it does mean that any such move is now a) less likely than it was before, and b) a ways away. Stay patient, Seattle NHL fans. As if we ever really had another option, anyway.