As we sit and wait semi-patiently for either the Phoenix Coyotes or Atlanta Thrashers to finally give up the ghost and move to a hockey market, fuel for the relocation fire just keeps getting poured on the two embattled franchises.
I picked up my Sports Illustrated this week and discovered some details about a sports loyalty survey that ranks the Coyotes in the bottom five teams in the NHL and ranks the Thrashers dead last.
This doesn’t really come as a huge surprise, of course. We know both teams are among the worst in NHL attendance, with buildings filled to under two-thirds of capacity on game nights.
It does, however, strengthen the notion that at least one or both of the teams should be getting out of dodge, sooner rather than later.
The Coyotes, at least, have a potential owner in Matthew Hulsizer who wants to buy the team — with a huge public subsidy — and keep them in Phoenix. Whether he can pull that off depends on a Glendale, Ariz., municipal bond sale which may or may not be legal, but will face a court challenge from a public watchdog either way.
In Atlanta, things are much more murky, with the Thrashers, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the Phillips Arena all owned by a group called Atlanta Spirit.
The group wants to unload the Thrashers and has been looking for “investors” to help keep the team in Atlanta. So far, there have only been tire-kickers, and it’s not hard to see why.
According to the sports loyalty index survey conducted by Brand Keys, the Thrashers and Hawks are among the least supported teams in pro sports.
The Hawks are in the bottom five in the NBA, while the Thrashers, as we said before, are dead last. Dead last in a league that already ranks far below other North American pro sports in terms of fan awareness.
Not exactly what you would call a selling point.
With the season almost over and so little talk coming from Atlanta about the Thrashers sale, you have to wonder if that team really is ready to pull up stakes in the near future. It would certainly make sense.
There hasn’t been much talk on the Coyotes front lately either and no one really knows if that means Hulsizer and the City of Glendale are getting closer to a deal or if they are just waiting for the season to end so they can announce it has failed. Or, as some reports have suggested, is there another potential owner waiting in the wings to pick things up where Hulsizer leaves off?
One thing is for sure: The Coyotes are not what you would call major players in the Phoenix market.
They are near the bottom of the league in attendance, have abysmal average television ratings and now we hear they are the fourth-worst team in the NHL in terms of brand loyalty.
Just as a matter of comparison, the Phoenix Suns, who play at US Airways Centre in downtown Phoenix, are No. 5 among NBA teams on the sports loyalty index survey.
It’s impossible to say where a Winnipeg NHL team would rank on such a survey (Vancouver was the only Canadian NHL team to crack the top five) but the Jets logo is relevant and Jets merchandise is popular to this day, some 16 years after the team flew south.
We’re not going to suggest this means you will be sitting at MTS Centre watching the Winnipeg Jets (or a reasonable facsimile) pushing toward the playoffs at this time next year.
But we’ll reiterate that it certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Brand Keys sports loyalty index survey results
| Detroit Red Wings
||Tampa Bay Lightning/Nashville Predators
| Philadelphia Flyers
|San Jose Sharks
||New York Islanders
||St. Louis Blues