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“It’s going to be packed!” says Arizona Coyotes owner Xavier Gutierrez on new 5,000-seat arena

February 15, 2022

Last time we checked on the Phoenix Coyotes, they were badly behind on rent and on the verge of getting locked out of their own arena. The Arizona Department of Revenue had filed a $1.3-million lien against the embattled NHL franchise, citing unpaid taxes dating back to June 2020. Coyotes ownership swore up and down that while the debt was real, it was a function of a clerical error, not anything sinister. They vowed to pay it right away to keep the lights on and the locks from getting changed.

Ultimately, the Coyotes managed to stave off eviction for the rest of the season, but with their Gila River Arena lease ending and the city of Glendale wanting them gone worse than bad rash, it became time to look for a new home. Last Thursday, the Coyotes found that home, announcing a multi-year agreement with Arizona State University to play in the school’s new multipurpose arena beginning in the fall of 2022. The catch? It holds a whopping 5,000 bodies.

Obviously Hockey Twitter had some fun with this one. Even AHL franchises came out to bag on the poor ‘Yotes. But that didn’t deter owner Xavier Gutierrez, who stepped to the podium on Monday to hype up the new barn. Let the cluelessness commence.

That is White House-level spin. Only a true grifter like Gutierrez could make a professional American sports franchise playing its games in a goldfish bowl until 2025 sound like a good thing. What he should have said is that it better be loud and it better be packed, because if the Coyotes really can’t get 5,000 drunk college kids interested in watching hockey twice a week October through April, especially considering the scenes we saw at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last weekend, then there’s really no need for them to be a franchise anymore. Strip it down, sell it for parts, put what’s left in a U-Haul and go north.

In a way, this is probably designed to be that very litmus test. If the Coyotes can manufacture demand from scarcity, maybe just maybe they can start to build something … a day 25 years late and a dollar couple million dollars short.