So the city of Glendale, Arizona told the Arizona Coyotes it’s ending the lease between it and the city at the Coyotes’ home arena. Here’s a telling line from the city in a tweet on Aug. 19:
“With an increased focus on larger, more impactful events and uses of the city-owned arena, the city of Glendale has chosen to not renew the operating agreement for the Arizona Coyotes beyond the coming 2021-22 season.”
The key words in there I take away? Larger, more impactful events. Essentially, the city of Glendale told the Coyotes that it wants the building to be more full than it is when they play. It doesn’t need to be hammered home but the Coyotes can’t draw flies to a pile of dog doo on the best of days — and that’s in the months and years before the Covid came around — and the city of Glendale knows that. Naturally, the Coyotes didn’t take that lying down and are “… 100 per cent committed to finding a long-term arena solution here in Arizona …”. Right. The Coyotes couldn’t sell out pad No. 3 of a four-plex in Mesa let alone anywhere else.
And so the buzz about relocation perked up again and that means trying to figure out which Canadian city should get the Coyotes. I say Canadian because that’s where any relocated team should go. I’ve read Houston as a natural rival for the Dallas Stars or Kansas City, which would have a natural rival with absolutely no one. I advocated for Hamilton before but that ship has long since sailed because, well, it’s Hamilton. I wouldn’t be opposed to Saskatoon but, like Hamilton, their best chance passed them by long ago.
So where should it go?
Quebec City. Bring back Les Nordiques and fast.
The city has a ready-made arena with a capacity of nearly 19,000 and there will be no worries about selling tickets. Because I’m greedy, I also want to see a Nords-Habs game again, like a lot of people do. If there’s ever a natural rivalry, that’s the one. Vendredi Saint 1984, anyone? Perhaps the most infamous brawl in National Hockey League history, or at least the only one I can recall which carried into two periods.
Let’s not forget that the Nordiques relocated not because of lack of butts in seats but because of the financial situation at the time. A small stadium combined with a crappy exchange rate is what did the Nordiques in. Marcel Aubut, who owned the Nordiques before he sold the team in 1995, never lost money but said he needed a bailout in order to survive the situation. None was forthcoming and he was forced to sell. If this sounds similar to what the first incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets went through, it is. The Jets ended up in Phoenix due to money.
Alas, the Jets have returned after Atlanta proved a second time that it isn’t a hockey town and now it’s time for the Nordiques to reclaim their place. It would be quite the twist as the original Jets would become the new Nordiques should they make the move from Phoenix. Finances shouldn’t be the issue because if it came down to money, the Atlanta Thrashers would have gone somewhere else besides Winnipeg.
The days of Nordiques Nation filling up coach buses and travelling to various cities to take over a couple thousand seats should be gone, though it was thoroughly entertaining to see them hit places like Ottawa and New Jersey to make plenty of noise. You know what would be great to see? Nordiques Nation fill up the buses — and I mean hundreds of them — and head to Florida to take in a Panthers game. Buy up the tickets for a Florida Panthers-Columbus Blue Jackets game, one that’s sure to be the hottest ticket absolutely nowhere, and just have a party. Who cares who wins?
There will be some who will say I’m not making much of a case but I don’t need one. The Coyotes have been an abysmal failure in Arizona. There’s more emotion involved in a cribbage game at an old folks home than there is at a Coyotes home game and I can guarantee you the sentiment of the Coyotes leaving the desert will be the same when the Thrashers left Atlanta: meh.
Allons Nordiques et espérons vous voir bientôt.