The Phoenix Coyotes' losses this season are expected to hit $45-million (all currency U.S.) once their debt servicing is taken into account, according to two sources, and the club is making further cutbacks after layoffs last week.
Among the austerity measures pushed on the club by the NHL, which is monitoring the Coyotes' financial and player-personnel moves, is a reduction in travel by the club's scouts, according to sources.
I know, I know — more awful news coming out of the desert. The Coyotes can't catch a PR break lately, and their fan base is understandably a bit testy.
As I've said already, I don't think the Coyotes are going anywhere in the short term. No one wants them, and even if they did, the team's lease is onerous enough to all but ensure they stay put, bleeding cash.
Besides, contraction seems incredibly unlikely in all but the most dire circumstances, and where on earth could they relocate to? Southern Ontario is quite likely the only underserved market in North America, and the Leafs will have a thing or two to say before a team lands in nearby Hamilton.
For an excellent look back at how the franchise, formerly the beloved Winnipeg Jets, ended up in Phoenix in the first place, The New York Times' Stu Hackel has the long and winding tale.
The NHL landing back in Winnipeg is a pipe dream, and not something many serious pundits are ever going to endorse. For one, the economics of the NHL have escalated so dramatically from where they were 13 years ago that it's completely unreasonable to assume that a city of 650,000 with a mediocre economy (and that is fighting like mad to keep its youngsters within the province) could ever compete even on the low end of the scale.
The building in Winnipeg is not big enough, there's no suitable owner and there are at least a half dozen better options between Southern Ontario and the U.S. In a league where you now need to generate at least $80-million to hit a break-even point, Winnipeg wouldn't have a hope.
Let's keep in mind that the Jets flew the white flag back when the average player salary was about $800,000, one-third of what we've seen this season. The city's population has remained stagnant, and its AHL franchise, the Moose, has seen its attendance numbers fall to 7,200 per game this season.
In a perfect world, the NHL would have stayed at 24 or 26 teams and built up a top-notch regional powerhouse, avoiding the sort of nightmare we could potentailly see unfold in markets like Phoenix, Atlanta, Nashville and Tampa Bay. As it stands, however, I bet this is a 30-team league for the next decade-plus, even if there is some shifting around to new markets.
All the recession's done is prevented them from going to 32.