The NHL Must Follow Minnesota Wild Playbook Next Go Round in Arizona

The never-ending story of the Arizona Coyotes is finally coming to an end. Nothing is final regarding the NHL’s relocation of the Arizona Coyotes to Salt Lake City, however, the wheels are in motion.

The best solution for the NHL and the Coyotes is to relocate them and start over. It just has not worked out long-term for the Coyotes. When the franchise first came from Winnipeg, it was successful. They made the playoffs in five of their six seasons in the desert, but Arizona never made it out of the first round.

NHL Rumors: NHL Continues To Listen About Potential Expansion and Relocation

But that team was made up of Winnipeg Jets 1.0 drafted players. After that, the Coyotes missed four straight seasons before returning to the playoffs in 2009-10. Three straight playoff appearances and going to the Western Conference Final in 2012, losing to the Los Angeles Kings was the best effort.

Since then, the Coyotes have made the playoffs once during the 2020 COVID Bubble. They could never capitalize on their playoff success because of the turmoil off the ice with multiple owners over the years, including the NHL.

However, the Coyotes could never shake the negative PR in the media about ownership and their building situation. That does not help bring players to your team. Not to mention how they operated, acquiring dead money contracts to get to the cap floor.

Add in missing rent payments in Glendale and cities not wanting to build them an arena, and it was a disaster. Being a successful franchise in a market like Arizona is hard when nobody wants you. Though the team has talent, it does not operate like an NHL franchise.

That is why they need to follow in Minnesota’s footsteps. When the Minnesota North Stars left for Dallas, they could not get a new building, attendance was dipping, and they did not want to play in the Timberwolves arena because of the naming rights. So, the North Stars relocated to Dallas.

Minnesota waited its turn, but they got the infrastructure right first. They built the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul. Ownership was better. Management was in order, and the Minnesota Wild were born in 1997 but did not play their first game until the 2000-01 season.

NHL Rumors: Is The Coyotes Time In Arizona Coming To An End?

We know the NHL wants to return to Arizona if and when the Coyotes are relocated. If/when the Coyotes relocate, Arizona jumps to the front of the line for expansion, ahead of Atlanta and Houston. The NHL knows the Phoenix and Scottsdale area has so much untapped potential.

While the NHLPA has not publicly stated anything, Executive Director Marty Walsh has pressed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the state of the Arizona Coyotes. This is why we are seeing so much movement here. It is good to get Arizona healthy and stable enough to get another franchise. Things have to be done right ‘next’ time around.

The Coyotes have been going about this backwards. Living year-to-year without a building is unhealthy, not for an NHL franchise. Playing out of a college arena does not work either. Moving from Phoenix to Glendale did not work. It’s like the Ottawa Senators playing in Kanata—too far of a drive.

The NHL had to put the wheels in motion to remedy the issues that have plagued the franchise. The land auction doesn’t take place until June and a new arena is years away from being ready. The NHLPA has become more involved/vocal with their displeasure with the current situation and things need to change.

While it will stink for the Coyotes fans to see the NHL relocate the franchise to Salt Lake City, it will ultimately be the best solution. That way, hockey in Arizona can get stabilized in the background, working towards being sustainable if and when the NHL decides to come back to Arizona.