Columnists, Hockey, Sports

5-Minute Major: The Coyotes need a new home in Arizona

The Arizona Coyotes can’t stay in Mullett Arena much longer, but they need to stay in Arizona.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

The Coyotes share their home ice with Arizona State University, and I got to see it myself for the first time last weekend. I’ve turned myself into a Coyotes fan to my own detriment, so I’ve been watching a lot of games on TV, and I’ve seen the away teams’ fans take over the arena in what seems like every home game. Even the teams that aren’t known for having expansive fanbases show up to these games and challenge the volume of Coyotes fans.

The Coyotes were playing the New Jersey Devils in the game I attended, a team located on the other side of the country, thousands of miles away. During warmups, their side of the ice was lined with signs asking for souvenirs and black-and-red jerseys. The Coyotes’ side was sparse with three signs total. There were fans, but some of them were also wearing Devils jerseys.

Fan engagement is not the only issue.

The Mullett is a college venue. It’s a very nice, renovated college venue, but it’s a college venue. There is only one bowl for seating. It fits only 5,000 people, and the next smallest NHL arena in Winnipeg fits three times that number. The entire exterior and interior is covered in Arizona State Sun Devil branding. As it should be — it was built for the university’s hockey team.

The only proof that the Coyotes use the arena at all is the team’s logo on the ice. They aren’t even allowed to add any further on-ice branding.

The Coyotes moved into Mullett Arena out of necessity. Their contract with their previous venue, Gila Arena in Glendale, ended after the 2021-22 season, and they didn’t have a new arena for themselves in place.

Now, moving out of the Mullett is a necessity.

Coyotes fans haven’t had much to cheer for. It would be better to give them something to look forward to. A new home would help, especially as the team invests in the future with 42 picks in the next four drafts, including 23 in the first three rounds of those drafts. 

And despite being the butt of many of the NHL’s jokes, the Coyotes do have some bright spots to watch.

Forward Clayton Keller, a former Boston University Terrier, has become their perennial All-Star, and he has recently become only the second Coyote to reach 400 career points with the team. When watching the team, he’s very clearly their best player, and he’s locked up with four years left on his contract, so he could stick around long enough to see what the Coyotes can bring for the future.

Forward Dylan Guenther more recently joined the team for this season, and when he was brought up, the plan was to send him back down to the American Hockey League once veteran forward Jason Zucker served his suspension. However, he performed so well as soon as he rejoined the NHL that he has stayed with the team. He has a big shot for a 20-year-old, a natural-born goal-scorer that can make any team more watchable.

As the 11th overall pick in the 2022 draft, forward Conor Geekie has been tearing up the Western Hockey League this season after gaining national attention from the World Juniors earlier this year for the way he tapes his stick. He currently has 49 points in 26 games played for the WHL’s Wenatchee Wild. Not only is he a character fans can look forward to watching, but he’s a skilled player that could spark the offense.

Just don’t make them all move to Utah.

Under just about any given Coyotes tweet, there are people making jokes about moving the team to Utah.

The Coyotes have been good at growing the game, particularly in a part of the country not known for ice, through youth programs and giving young kids a local team to love. The team gives young kids getting to hockey important role models to try and imitate.

They’re not a lost cause. They’re moving towards a bid for land in the northern part of Phoenix to build a new arena, putting them near the heart of a huge metropolitan area in a place that needs to grow the game, arguably more than any other part of the country. A new arena could spark interest, and more seats could drive down the price of tickets, allowing more Coyotes fans to attend games. Accessibility is important when trying to grow a fanbase.

So is making the team less of a joke in general, especially when they don’t need to be with their young prospects and hoards of draft picks. A rebuild doesn’t need to be reputation-ruining for an entire franchise.

If the league knows what’s good for itself, it shouldn’t force the Coyotes to move north.

More Articles

One Comment

  1. Move them to Quebec City where the fanbase is enthusiastic, and will contribute to revenue sharing – unlike what Arizona has done for decades.