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Chicago Blackhawks' Brandon Saad skates past Boyd Gordon of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Chicago Blackhawks' Brandon Saad skates past Boyd Gordon of the Phoenix Coyotes.

No thaw for NHL fans in Arizona as crowds continue to shun sport

After 16 years failing to draw a crowd, it's time for the Phoenix Coyotes to surrender their NHL place - if a buyer can be found.

Sometimes odd pairings work out. Pineapple on pizza. A cannon in an orchestra. Sonny and Cher.

Apparently, ice hockey in the Arizona desert is not one of those exotic pairings. After 16 years, it is time for the Phoenix Coyotes to give up their spot in the National Hockey League and let someone else try to fill an arena.

For three years, the NHL has underwritten the bankrupted Phoenix franchise - coaxing local interests to buy the team and right the ship.

Recently, however, the most ardent suitor, Greg Jamison, missed a deadline to get his funding together, and the city of Glendale withdrew a critical, corresponding deal for him to manage the arena where the Coyotes play.

Numerous cities have been mentioned as potential landing spots for the franchise, including Quebec City, suburban Toronto, Seattle and Portland.

No one, however, is ready to buy and relocate the team, yet, so hope springs eternal among (the few) hockey fans in Arizona, where it is said Jamison continues his pursuit.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes are last in attendance, a familiar spot for them. They are averaging 12,348 fans per game; 23 of the league's 30 teams are on the high side of 17,000 per game. This, despite the fact the Coyotes reached the play-offs each of the past three years, and were the Western Conference finalists last spring.

In a state even the transplanted London Bridge found an unlikely new home, hockey just does not fit.

sports@thenational.ae

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