According to a report from the Glendale Star, members of the Arizona Coyotes recently toured the Moda Center and the KeyArena in Seattle as possible new homes for the wayward franchise. The Coyotes play their home games in the 14-year-old Gila River Arena in Glendale, but have been exploring potential relocation options as their lease is up following the 2017-2018 season and amidst contractual conflicts with the city.
When asked by the Glendale Star about the reports, a Coyotes spokesman denied the claims.
Until February 3, it appeared that the Coyotes had found their new den (Coyotes!) in a joint venture with Arizona State University to build a new arena in Tempe. Those plans fell through on Friday evening as a university spokesman stated to The Arizona Republic that the university “has no intention of proceeding to sign a development or an option to lease or any other agreement with the Coyotes.”
The notion of an NHL team in Portland is not a new one. In 2013 a deal was nearly reached to bring the Coyotes to the Moda Center, and it is something that Trail Blazers and Moda Center owner Paul Allen has been interested in as far back as 1999. Additionally, the Moda Center is already suited to host an NHL franchise while Seattle’s KeyArena would require extensive renovations in order to serve as a feasible venue.
With sights set on a major professional sports team, it is also important to recognize that hockey already thrives in Portland. The Winterhawks had the second highest attendance in the WHL last year while the Coyotes had the second lowest in the NHL—not even doubling the junior-league Winterhawks’ average attendance. This preexisting fan base, which is sure to embrace an NHL team, should further entice the Coyotes front office to strongly consider Portland for relocation.
An NHL franchise in Portland makes perfect sense. The arena is here. The support is here. The metro area and television markets are large enough, and Portland is just close enough to Vancouver and San Jose to foster meaningful rivalries in the Western Conference.
The rumor mill will likely continue to churn until the Coyotes settle on their final destination. Until then, Portlanders should remain cautiously optimistic that they will see another major professional sports team in the Moda Center.