What will happen to the Arizona Coyotes when voters shoot down a new home in Tempe? - The Boston Globe (2023)


If only the NHL business in Arizona could be this neat, this streamlined and promising. As the weekend approaches, in the wake of Tuesday's public vote that denied the Coyotes a shiny new home in Tempe, the future of the franchise remained TBD.

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Arizona has been the perpetual garbage can that burns for yearsGary Betmanhas refused to shut down, the NHL commissioner is convinced that the sunniest spot in the Sun Belt this side of Las Vegas has the rich demographic and business base that translates to sustainability. The reasoning is right, but the result is always wrong. Why? You have to wonder if the public vote would have been on Tuesday if the woeful Coyotes hadn't missed the playoffs in 10 of the past 11 seasons.

Arizona hockey fans, whether avid or casual drive-by gawkers, don't need to be sold on the sun. But at some point the product must offer a few rays of sunshine.

In Ottawa, several bidders (includingSnoop Doggin one of four bidding groups) and larger offers than expected about eight months ago when the franchise was put up for sale. ActorRyan Reynoldswas also part of a group that ultimately decided not to bid. There is a chance that one of the four bidders will encourage him to invest.


Overall, the NHL business is strong and remarkably stable, thanks in large part to the implementation of the salary cap in 2005 at the expense of the vicious 2004-2005 lockout season (a moment of silence, please). It was as messy as it gets, but Bettman provided cost certainty, the owners' holy grail, and player salaries have since increased more than 100 percent from the first international season's $39 million per team.

Long gone and all but forgotten (thankfully) are the days when the Senators rushed to pay salaries as EMC co-foundedRoger Marinuscouldn't wait to unload his penguins when the Coyotes — yes, the same Coyotes — had one big toe over the blue line and the other dipped in the red ink of bankruptcy court.

What will happen to the Arizona Coyotes when voters shoot down a new home in Tempe? - The Boston Globe (1)

It's now a league where all seven Canadian franchises have stabilized and no one is talking about, say, Winnipeg packing up like the Jets did in 1996 and chasing the supposed riches in the Arizona desert. There's still talk that Quebec City, Hamilton, Regina or Saskatoon could one day come on board via expansion, but none of that talk ever reaches the barstools of those cities, no matter how desperately gray-bearded NHL beat writers plead , that Quebec City would get back into the game. Unfortunately, andthat's life.


Meanwhile, the conference finals have just begun, and your trusty puck chronicler/geographer is here to tell you that Las Vegas is the northernmost outpost of the Sun Belt Four, followed by Raleigh, Dallas and southernmost Sunrise. There's only about 10 degrees of latitude separation (26-36) between the Sun Belt outposts, not to mention NHL history dating back only to 1993 when both the Panthers and Stars opened for business.

The Panthers were born via expansion, first operating in the Miami Arena, and the Stars came in as émigrés from Bloomington, Minn. It took until the Wild's debut in 2000 for Minnesotans to reclaim their State of Hockey.

In fact, it was 1993 when the Canadiens enjoyed what stands as their most recent Stanley Cup title, which also ranks as the most recent of any Canadian franchise. The Cup has landed in an American city every year since then and will take place again this year.

Related:The whalers return? Connecticut's governor hopes to bring the NHL's Coyotes to Hartford

With the exception of Arizona, the NHL's Sun Belt expansion has progressed well since Bettman took office as the league's first commissioner in early 1993. He deserves a lot of credit for the growth, as well as criticism for the Arizona franchise's prolonged stumbles.

Maybe Bettman is just letting go of his Phoenix-Glendale-Tempe fetish now. If he does, the bet here is that the franchise ends up in Houston, long the favorite spot of the NHL presidentJeremy Jacobs, better known in these parts as the owner of the Bruins. Salt Lake City and Kansas City will also hold their hands high, but Houston is number 7 among the US TV markets.


The six largest TV markets have NHL teams, except for No. 6 Atlanta, where the Flames and Thrashers failed to make the cut. Like Phoenix, Atlanta is in the Sun Belt. Like Phoenix, it offers a solid case for demographics and business fundamentals. But it has been smelled twice.

The Thrashers, now doing business as the reborn Winnipeg Jets, qualified for the postseason just once every 11 years (sound familiar?) but were swept by the Rangers in four straight games in 2007.

The Flames fared slightly better, entering the league in 1972 and qualifying for six of their eight seasons before moving to Calgary. They never got out of Round 1 and came away with a 2-15 postseason record. In their 19 NHL seasons, the Thrashers and Flames won two playoff games. Mercy.

Sun Belt cities have won 11 of the Cup titles dating back to 1996, and the Avalanche took the first of them less than 12 months after new owners moved the franchise from Quebec City. The Sun Belt's Cup numbers: Colorado (3), Tampa Bay (3), Los Angeles (2), Anaheim (1), Carolina (1) and Dallas (1).

Sun Belt Cup No. 12 will be awarded in less than a month. The Senators will probably get new owners. And Coyotes, who have roamed the desert for 27 years now, can finally be released to find another promised land.



The NHL could learn from the NBA

One of the big hooks of playoff hockey is the frequent, if not usual, frantic final minutes of games. The pacing is almost always compelling, with viewers hesitant to turn away from the TV even for the 10 seconds (FOMO!) it takes to run to the kitchen to refill. It is all the more poignant in overtime.

The NHL knows full well how unpopular this take will sound to those addicted to the heady rush, and could consider stealing a page from the NBA broadcast playbook and its revenue stream. Keeping the action uninterrupted on the ice and keeping your nose pressed to the screen leaves significant money on the table.

With a trusty stopwatch in hand, your trusty puck chronicler timed the final seven minutes of play in Game 6 of the recent Celtics-76ers playoff series. Great action, but for anyone addicted to watching hockey, the pace was excruciatingly slow. Nothing new. It's the NBA. College hoops too.

With the constant breaks in action, including frequent timeouts and the relentless barrage of TV commercials like connective tissue, it took 25:45 for the seven minutes of play to be over in Game 6. But generally, viewers accept it. Celtics fans, thrilled with the result, probably wished it lasted longer.

In a typical NHL game, which usually lasts about 02.35, a 20-minute period normally lasts 40 minutes, including three mandatory TV timeouts of two minutes each. Remove the nine TV timeouts over three periods, and that playing time would drop from 2:35 to something closer to 2:15. By the way, a beat writer's paradise is at 19:08. start these wraps before 9:30. It's usually paradise lost.

Related:Bruins' Hampus Lindholm played through the stretch and into the playoffs with a broken foot

The NHL could easily build in a mandatory coaches timeout (one minute) and an additional two-minute TV timeout in the late stages (back half of the third period) of playoff hockey. It would be the fourth two-minute break of the period, leaving 90 seconds of TV commercials. Would anyone stop watching if the period lasted 43 minutes instead of 40? None. Some viewers would even welcome the break (the bathroom beckons).

Advertising revenue increases television profits, which in turn translate into higher broadcast rights that are transferred directly to hockey-related revenue (split 50/50 with the players). The league also easily built a fourth two-minute break into the first and second periods. More breaks. More ad sales. And the driving time would only be extended by seven minutes.

Think of the extra revenue in the regular season, night after night, with 32 teams providing all the extra ad time. Remember, this is a competition that subjects its TV viewers to the annoying, constantly changing ads on the sideboards. Every inch of that screen is for sale. And the NBA product is proof that viewers stick around no matter how long the clock is stretched.


The Swayman deal is on the agenda

What will happen to the Arizona Coyotes when voters shoot down a new home in Tempe? - The Boston Globe (2)

Bruins general managerDon SweeneysThe long offseason to-do list includes finding "a landing spot" on a new goalie dealJeremy Swayman, his entry-level contract was now expiring. Based on the compositions, it will potentially be worth $4.5 million a year or more.

Swayman, 24, finished his three-year contract with a 54-23-8 record, better totals than three goaltenders who best compare to his time and place in his career:Thatcher Demko(Canucks),Spencer Knight(Panther), andJake Oettinger(Stars).

Incidentally, Oettinger entered the Western Conference Finals with an 8-5 record. The former Boston University goaltender logged 62 games in the regular season, trailing onlyHair in Saros(predators) andConnor Hellebuyck(Jets), 64 moose.

Oettinger signed a two-year, $4 million cap extension in September after voiding his entry-level deal. He brought a 41-23-8 mark to the table.

Knight, with a 23-9-3 record, also signed a three-year, $4.5 million cap hit deal in September.

Demko, a Boston College alumnus like Knight, was 34-31-4 when he voided his entry-level deal in the spring of 2021. The Canucks locked him up in March for five years, $25 million.

Swayman's new deal could easily earn him the $5 million a year the partner was courtingLinus Ulmarkaway from the Sabers in the summer of 2021. Ullmark, then 28, arrived in Boston with a career mark of 50-47-13.

A restricted free agent, Swayman was able to field bids outside of Boston, with the Bruins eligible to match. Even at a budget-friendly $4 million, that could mean parting ways with Ullmark, who has two years left on his contract and gives Sweeney the option to deal him to one of the 15 teams he designates.

An idea that has been in the works for years

The league's move to the Sun Belt may actually have come to fruitionby Gary Bettmansee, but the design was drawn up in the 1980s by the league's previous administration, led by PresidentJohn Ziegler(he of the ever-present silk handkerchief). After the WHA's acceptance of four teams in 1979, creating the Original 21, Ziegler formulated a "Vision for the '90s" initiative to increase membership to 30 teams.

“It was definitely vanilla where the teams wanted to come from,” Ziegler told the Toronto Star in 2009. “What we were looking for was a strong urban center, one that had an identity with professional sports, and the other was an economically sound owner."

The Toronto Star Story, written byRobert crib, came about four years into the cap era. The Coyotes were bankrupt. The full effects of the cap had yet to be realized, but eventually led to increased TV rights fees and massive expansion money from Vegas ($500 million) and Seattle ($650 million).

The NHL had 30 teams in 2009. There was talk of moving American teams to Canada, or maybe even downsizing. No more whispers about it.

Bettman should have stopped five teams earlierRoger Noll, a sports economics professor at Stanford University told the Star in 2009. "It's not going to work."

Tab pucke

What will happen to the Arizona Coyotes when voters shoot down a new home in Tempe? - The Boston Globe (3)

The Bruins still have five picks, ranging from Nos. 92 to 220, for the upcoming (June 28-29) draft in Nashville. Sweeney dealt their top pick (No. 28) in theDmitri Orlov-Granat Hathawayacquisition from Washington, and the Capitals sent the crop to the Maple Leafs in the acquisitionRasmus Sandin. Bruins' second pick (No. 60) belongs to Anaheim, part of the fee for the 2022 deadline acquisitionHampus Lindholm. Needing a payroll, Sweeney could pick up a first- or second-rounder and/or prospect by dealing a veteran or two as a means of fitting his 2023-24 roster under the $83.5 million… News Wednesday that Lindholm was playing with a broken foot gives some context to why the defenseman's performance was so uneventful in the seven-game series against the Panthers. After having an impressive 10-43-53 in the regular game, Lindholm went Full Zero for the seven games vs. Florida. Led by Orlov's 0-8-8, the backs failed to score (0-18-18). In the regular season, the Bruins were 27-3-0 in games where at least one of their defensemen scored a goal... Panthers defensemen entered the Eastern Conference Finals with nine goals in 12 games, led by six ofBrandon Montour, the ex-Sabre who hits the open market on July 1 (the Panthers are unlikely to meet his request of perhaps $7 million a year or more). The Hurricanes blue liners entered the semifinals with seven goals, followed by Dallas and Vegas with two each... A small consolation for Canada: All four coaches in the conference finals are originally from Ontario:Bruce Cassidy, Vegas (Ottawa);Paul Maurice, Florida (Sault St. Marie),Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina (Ottawa);Peter DeBoer, Dallas (Dunnville). All but Brind'Amour played for OHL junior teams. Brind'Amour was drafted by the Blues 9th overall in 1988 and played one year at Michigan State before turning pro with the St. Louis in 1989...Jonathan Marchessaultsecond period hat trick last Sunday for the Golden Knights ended the Oilers' Dreams of the Cup. The 32-year-old winger, who had not been called up after his first year with the Quebec Remparts, has become one of the most efficient scorers since finally making the full-time move in his lone season with the Panthers in 2016-17. In his seven full-time seasons, most of them with Vegas, he has 180 regular-season goals, which is 31st. Not bad for a kid who attracted zero league-wide interest as an 18-year-old. Again, the ending is much more important than the beginning.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached atkevin.dupont@globe.com.

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