Hard to compare Phoenix to Pittsburgh

Posted by Richard Pollock in Phoenix Coyotes,Pittsburgh Penguins on May 31, 2009 — 7 Comments

From Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail:

Bettman cited the Pittsburgh Penguins as an example of a team that was once in dire financial shape, but was eventually turned around in its own market.

“We didn’t walk out on Pittsburgh,” said Bettman. “We fought to fix their problems – and we’re fighting with everything that’s going on for Phoenix, because of our covenant with the team and the fans there.

Read Duhatschek’s recap of Saturday’s conference here.

This analogy doesn’t fit in my opinion.  You are comparing a franchise in Phoenix that has apparently yet to make a profit since moving to Phoenix in 1996.  That means, that this franchise didn’t even make money when it made the playoffs, never mind not making the playoffs. 

On the other hand, Pittsburgh is a franchise that was in trouble until Mario Lemieux came and saved the franchise.  However, since Lemieux came there, Pittsburgh became a hockey town.  The team won back-to-back Stanley Cups and the Igloo was consistently a packed and loud house.  Now, I realize people will say, “Hey, Phoenix has never won and that has been the bigggest problem.”  Sure, but the Penguins weren’t a winner in Lemieux’s first few years and it is not as if the Coyotes lack for young exciting talent.  Now, I’m not comparing Peter Mueller to Mario Lemieux but toss in a bunch of the other young Coyotes players and the team’s brand new arena and there are a lot of reasons to watch the Coyotes play.

The biggest difference for me is the fact that the Coyotes are located in the deep south, where hockey is not exactly on the minds of the public.  Take newspaper coverage as an example.  I post the papers each morning and there are a ton of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review articles about hockey each morning.  In the Arizona Republic, you don’t even have a beat writer travel with the team on the road.  Considering that aside from Five For Howling, there is a distinct lack of Coyotes hockey blogs as well, and you don’t exactly have many avenues for following hockey if you live in Phoenix or follow the Coyotes.

As for Pittsburgh, the Penguins are located in the Northeastern, US.  Hockey is a big deal on the East Coast.  I’d bet that almost everyone in Pittsburgh knows of the Penguins.  How many people in Phoenix do you think are concerned about the Coyotes’ every move?

So, while I understand where Bettman is going with this comparison (To be honest, it is his job to make the situation look viable–so I’m not so certain he believes the analogy himself), I believe the differences outweigh the similarities.

  • Melanie B

    So because Pittsburgh was at one point in dire straits they can be compared to Phoenix. Wow. That makes zero sense.

    While Bettman is doing an admirable job in trying to keep this sinking ship afloat it is quotes like this that show just how far this ship has gone down.

  • Missourimike

    Here’s what I don’t understand. The arena was apparently built in the wrong area. So regardless of how good the on-ice product is, how are you going to get the ‘fans’ to the site.

    Reminds me of Ottawa. Don’t Sens fans have to drive 45 minutes or so from Ottawa proper to get to Scotiabank Place?

    Plus as both you and Melanie indicate, I don’t understand how you can equate the two markets.

  • penguinsfan

    Your analysis is spot on. Pittsburgh is not Phoenix. Stupid analogy by Betteman. Talk about grasping.

  • ladders11

    My understanding is that the act of saving the Penguins can be attributed to Mario Lemieux. The team owed Mario $30 Million in deferred salary, which made him one of their largest creditors. He accepted that the salary owed be converted to ownership interest in the team. Then, he resumed playing and provided a low-cost gate attraction.

    Then they got two #1 picks and secured two of the best players in the league.

    I sure wouldn’t thank Bettman for saving them.

  • Good point ladders. So, now all we Phoenix needs is Gretz to comeback for the Coyotes…

  • missourimike great point as well. Location has a lot to do with this. Although it Coyotes fans must have found it disconcerting to find out that the team didn’t make money even when playing at America West.

  • Jen M

    This is so far out there I cannot begin to even try and comprehend it. As all the previous posters have stated: A cold state in the northeast is the same as a warm state in the southwest because they both at one point lost money.