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Colangelo: Back in the day, Bettman told him hockey wouldn’t work in the desert

May 2, 2012, 4:59 PM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v Phoenix Suns Getty Images

Interesting tidbit sandwiched in an Arizona Republic column calling for a statue to be built in Jerry Colangelo’s honor.

For those that aren’t familiar, Colangelo is the former owner of the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks. In addition to that, he was instrumental in bringing the Coyotes to the desert.

Anyway, here’s the interesting tidbit:

When Colangelo was designing America West Arena, he wanted to build the most intimate arena in the NBA. He also wanted to keep his options open if the NHL desired a franchise in the desert. He called NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who told him there was no future for hockey in the desert.

“A couple of years later, I get call from Gary telling me that the team from Winnipeg wants to move to Phoenix and a couple of guys would like to meet with me,” Colangelo said.

America West Arena, now the US Airways Center, is still the downtown home of the Suns. When it opened in 1992, it was considered one of the best arenas in sports. And from personal experience, it’s still a great place to watch a basketball game.

What it’s never been great for is hockey. When the Coyotes played there from 1996-2003, its “intimate” design meant thousands of obstructed-view seats. Eventually, the team decided to leave the downtown location for a new home, Arena, in suburban Glendale.

Unfortunately, it’s proved a challenge for the Coyotes to convince fans to make the drive to Glendale– often during rush hour — from Phoenix, Scottsdale, and other outlying areas.


A = US Airways Center

B = Arena

Long story short, whether the Coyotes stay long-term in Glendale or move away after this season, we’ll always be left wondering how different things would’ve been if America West Arena had been built with the NHL in mind.

Now let’s all watch this:

  1. phipfwe76 - May 2, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    And it still might not work. Let’s not get caught up on one playoff run.

    • govtminion - May 2, 2012 at 5:46 PM

      You beat me to it. This is going well, but the team is owned by the NHL for lack of a buyer (for now anyway), and they’ve only now won their first playoff series in the desert. Save the crowing for later, boss.

      • maalea - May 2, 2012 at 8:00 PM

        This is why I’m rooting for the Coyotes. I remember reading after the Flyers traded for Pronger and that every home playoff game was worth 1 million.

        If they can get a few more home games it has to help keep the team in Glendale. Plus, it really could be worth much more in 12-13 ticket sales.

  2. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - May 2, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Hockey works in the desert?

  3. pavelfitzgerald - May 2, 2012 at 7:55 PM

    Unfortunately it was also hard to convince Coyote fans to drive to the arena in Phoenix since they’ve lost money EVERY year they’ve been in existince ..

  4. ray2013 - May 2, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    This was one of my chief complaints about the current arena.

    If you’ve ever been to Phoenix, the Suns arena is in one of the most picturesque parts of the city. It’s right next to the D-backs stadium. Lots of bars, restaurants, beautiful part of the city. A place you’d want to go to. Then take the drive to Glendale, where the current arena is in. Let’s just say it’s less than picturesque, in an area that’s less of a destination.

    My second complaint was as someone who grew up watching hockey on tv, and listening to games on the radio, they really could have used a Rod Phillips. Rod could make a weekday game in mid-February against the Atlanta Thrashers seem like the greatest game in hockey history. (Rod Philips was inducted in the hockey hall of fame for his play-by-play skills.)

    Finally someone mentions the obvious.

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