Apr. 26, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes players salute the crowd after losing to the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 in a shootout at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Astoria, NY – New York Islanders fans will agree, what has been happening with the Phoenix Coyotes is eerily similar to the specter of relocation to an unknown city that once hung over the Isles.
And although the Islanders are staying in the New York area—only moving as far as Barclays Center in Brooklyn—the Long Island fan base can appreciate the stress endured by their Phoenix-based brethren caused by the legal and political wrangling around the Coyotes franchise.
For four years, the Coyotes have been a hot-button topic in NHL circles: would they go bankrupt (again)? Would the team be relocated to Quebec City or Seattle? Would Gary Bettman point to the experiment in Phoenix as proof that league expansion was a success, and then announce the formation of three new teams based in Tunica, Salt Lake City and Bratislava?
For four years, the NHL and its fans basically held its breath. (Actually, the NHL dragged its feet. The fans held their breath.)
Last night, Long Islanders and residents of Phoenix (Phoenicians? Phoenix-ians? Phoenix-people?) breathed a sign of relief at the news that the Glendale City Council had approved a 15-year, $225 million lease deal for Jobbing.com Arena to Renaissance Sports & Entertainment, effectively keeping the Coyotes in their current location for the foreseeable future.
While the Islanders may not have technically avoided relocation, the similarities between the local politics in Nassau County and those in the Phoenix, AZ area were undeniable.
Both teams were underwater on their current leases, both teams were struggling to fill the seats at their home games, and both teams have relatively small but passionate fan bases.
The other similarity? Neither team moved to Quebec City. Or Seattle. Or Oklahoma City. They’ll be staying relatively close to home.
For the Coyotes, the move that was thought to be happening—beyond a shadow of a doubt, by most—will not.
Floating Around The Twitter-Sphere
Why was watching the online feed of the Glendale City Council proceedings must-see TV? Because NHL fans—especially those whose team has faced a similar situation—are part of a tight-knit community. Rob wasn’t the only one on Long Island staying up late to see what would happen with the Coyotes. (And he probably wasn’t the only one having flashbacks to media reports claiming the Islanders were be headed for Kansas City as recently as last year.)
The connection is ready-made: Islanders fans and Coyotes fans were attached at the hip last night, and will be associated with one another for at least a little while. The prospect of losing your hometown team is cause enough for commiseration between the two fan bases.
Even if you weren’t happy with Rick DiPietro when he was misplaying the puck behind his own net or needlessly risking injury by throwing his body around more than necessary, you have to agree with Robert’s sentiment here. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but Isles Nation should collectively wish Ricky the best in his future endeavors. Remember: he signed on to be an Islander before anyone else. His commitment to the franchise was undeniable.
Wait, you miss Islanders hockey? So does @IslesBlog. Luckily for you, you can re-read his end-of-season thoughts here.
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