How the NHL's Conference Realignment Will Impact the Average Arizonan: it Won't

Categories: Sports
The National Hockey League announced yesterday its plan to divide the league into four conferences rather than six divisions, as the league is currently arranged.

Under the new organization, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin inside each conference, with the top four teams squaring off in divisional playoffs (see how the new conferences will be organized below).

So how will the realignment impact the average Arizonan? It won't -- Arizonans are notoriously amongst the worst hockey fans in North America.

Last season, the Phoenix Coyotes had the second worst attendance record in the NHL -- only the New York Islanders had worse fan support.

The 2009-2010 season was even worse for the Howlers -- the Coyotes had the lowest attendance in the entire NHL, with an average of 11,989 fans per game.

The team, meanwhile, has made the playoffs the past two seasons, despite it's lack of a solid fan base and continued uncertainty over whether the team will remain in the Valley.

With the exception of two seasons -- the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons (when NHL icon Wayne Gretzky took over as coach) -- since 2004, the Coyotes have been amongst the five NHL teams with the worst attendance records. Even during the (gulp) good years, the Coyotes still were amongst the 10 NHL teams with the lousiest fans.

See all NHL attendance statistics here.

Despite Arizonans' apparent lack of interest in professional hockey, the NHL remains optimistic that it can turn desert dwellers into puck fans.

As you may know, the Coyotes franchise filed bankruptcy in 2009. Since then, the NHL has made several attempts to find a buyer for the team who's willing to keep the Coyotes in Glendale. The league's yet to find a buyer.


NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman this morning reaffirms that the league's goal is to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, despite the team's failure to make money in the desert.

"Our anticipation is this shouldn't go on and probably won't go on another year with us owning the club and the City of Glendale doing what it's doing to support the building with the Coyotes in there," Bettman told a reporter for the league-owned website, "But, you never know what is going to happen. Our hope continues to be it gets sold in the not too distant future to a buyer for Glendale."

In case you missed it -- and judging by this season's attendance, you probably have -- the Coyotes aren't having a bad season. With a record of 14-9, the team currently is tied for fourth place in the Western Conference.

Meanwhile, with an average of 10,997 fans per home game for the 2011-2012 season, the Coyotes again have the worst attendance in the entire league.
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It won't affect us mostly because the Coyotes are a dead franchise walking.

They'll be here for the rest of this season, maybe next, but after that they will be gone, most likely to either OKC or Kansas City. Or maybe to Quebec City if they can get their act together and build a new arena.

There's also a good possiblity that the franchise will simply cease to exist; those who are experts in such things say the NHL is stretched far too thin and needs to lose as many as 10 franchises. Nearly every team in the Sun Belt is drowning in red ink. 

Americans just aren't that interested in sports that we didn't invent. That, coupled with changing demographics (fewer white europeans, more hispanics who prefer soccer and baseball) pretty much means hockey is well on its way to being a second-tier sport, if that, in the US.

Besides that, Phoenix is simply too poor of a city to support four pro sports franchises. In fact it's probably too poor to support more than one or two adequately; I expect either the D-Backs or Suns to move or fold within the next 10 years or so.

Between bad owners, bad management, slimy developers (looking at you, Steve Ellman) and delusional city leaders desperately trying to make Glendale into something it has never been and never will be, the Coyotes never really had a chance.


I hope it's the Suns that fold. I hate basketballl, always have. Can't stand to even see a logo or thugly in passing.

Larry Feiner
Larry Feiner

Oh Look James, now you have the Candian trolls commenting.  Nice.


hey now,Maybe Native Arizona people that are too stupid to know what Hockey is won't be effected by this, but then again...All I can say is GO FLYERS.

Larry Feiner
Larry Feiner

This article reads as though it were written by david shoalts.  Why are you bashing a local team?  Have you any idea how many people will be negatively impacted if the team does in fact leave?  And where are your scroopals ? You failed to mention how Moyes deliberately hung the team out to dry in order to prop up his other ventures.  Remember that?  Wasn't that about the same time the team started failing on the ice?  And doesn't that also coorispond with the downturn in attendance?  Yes, those things are all related once that tangled web is disposed of, the franchise will begin to heal.  The fans that were so rabid from 1996 through 2002 will return.  What's that you didn't know about those fans here in the desert? Yeah, we are still here! As for you james king, stick to you "Best Caption" articles.

James King
James King

Larry, where in this article did I "bash" the local team? Pretty sure I mention how well the team is doing and how well it's done the past two seasons. Any criticism is of the crappy Arizona sports "fans" who fail to support a very decent hockey team.I played hockey in the northeast from the time I was 4-years-old until I moved to the desert five years ago. I love the sport and am disappointed it hasn't taken off in Phoenix the way it should have. The reason the team's future in Arizona is in jeopardy is because of the "fans," not the team -- which, if you read the article, you would have realized. 

Larry Feiner
Larry Feiner

You can deniy it all you want, but your bias comes shining through.  If you aren't willing to explore the possibility that the fan base was healthy before Moyes then you aren't seeing the picture with an open mind.  The Moyes sabotage was blantant and its all documented BK records.  Moyes is being sued for it by the NHL.. and still you hang on to your untrue statements saying Hockey failed to take off in AZ. 

Do you know how many sheets of ice there are in the metro area?  There's 18.  I think there was 3 when the Coyotes arrived.  There might be a relationship there too.

You mentioned you played hockey in the Northeast.  I wonder of your bias against soutwest hockey has something to with that?  I suspect it does, because I grew up playing hockey in the midwest and struggled for with the idea that I automaticlly knew more about hockey than any of the fans that I ran into out here.  After becoming a season ticket holder and I started to know the other fans. I quickly learned that our fans are just as rabid and knowlagable as any other market. Hey, it's true!

So at first I thought your bias was because you were uninformed, but now I realize that I believe you are biased againts southwest fans, due to your NE upbringing.  Stop being snob and go to some games.  Make some freinds.  Maybe even join a beer league!  It worked for me.


The dumbest move of all time: Coyotes move from downtown central Phoenix to Glendale thereby severing ties to over 75 percent of their fan base and 98 percent of all Arizonan's with spending money.


Thanks James, I can sleep better now that I know the future of ICE hockey in the DESERT is maybe probably ok for another year or so.

Oh, and I see that Mr. Bettman graduated from the Jan Brewer Skool of Publicly Writen.

" Our hope continues to be it gets sold in the not too distant future to a buyer for Glendale."

W T F?????????


It's press like this that doesn't help the situation here. How about positive press to help the team build momentum?

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