It was a one-punch hockey fight.
The Arizona Coyotes’ plan to squeeze cash out of the state Legislature for a new hockey arena went down hard late Friday.
It was only the fourth week of the legislative session. But the arena plan was plagued by bad political omens from the start. The five warning signs:
Bandwagon on blocks: Phoenix is a bandwagon sports town. When you’re a winner, the fans pile on and so do the politicians. They can’t love you enough. The Coyotes’ bandwagon is on cement blocks in a dark, far corner of the parking lot. The team’s base loves them. Sen. John McCain shows up once in a while with good friend Grant Woods, who’s done work for the team. But that’s it.
It’s on you: Team CEO Anthony LeBlanc unveiled the plan for a site at Arizona State University last November. It was the first trophy development at ASU’s new Athletic Facilities District. The City of Tempe was going to be a partner.
Yet ASU President Michael Crow wasn’t at the announcement. The VP for athletics gave a lame excuse for not showing up to promote what he called "a phenomenal opportunity." Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, whose city would have had to borrow money for the project, also was absent. Message to Coyotes: Wish you well, boys, but publicly, you’re on your own.
West Valley vs East Valley: Any vote for whatever funding scheme the Coyotes came up with would have required the support of the Legislature’s Republican majority and the signature of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who’s running for re-election next year.
The Coyotes’ Glendale arena is in the conservative West Valley. The ASU site’s in Democratic Tempe. There was no plausible scenario in which Republicans ship a team to the East Valley and stick their Glendale voters with an empty arena, a $223.6 million mortgage over the next 17 years, and no way to pay it off.
GOP House Speaker J.D. Mesnard told me before the session started in January his members didn’t like the idea.
Ducey just has to ask his good friend, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, how Walker’s stadium deal for the Milwaukee Bucks worked out. Not good.
Red alert: Republicans’ alarms went off when the session started after Ducey released a new funding plan for the state’s universities, using state sales taxes to free up to $1 billion in new cash. Legislators were immediately suspicious that it was a back-door plan to pay for the Coyotes arena.
Then this: This past week, a Senate Republican dropped bill creating a special taxing district that would use state sales taxes for a Coyotes arena in Tempe.
A Glendale legislator called a news conference for Monday to denounce the stadium grab. A few hours later came word that ASU was ditching the Coyotes. The university did not provide an explanation.
ASU insiders say there was no back-door funding plan for Coyotes. Maybe not. But Ducey’s funding plan for universities was already in trouble with Republicans and Democrats.
It appears ASU’s Mike Crow wasn’t going to let the Coyotes deal cost him hundreds of millions of dollars.
Glendale knows how that story ends.
What's next?: The better question - the 20-year-old question for this franchise: Where’s the money?
-Last June I wrote about a site on tribal land the team was being pitched for a new arena.
That site has become more intriguing in recent months, with a new “pop-up” stadium for Phoenix’s minor league soccer team. That team is now being considered for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
I do know there was a proposal for a combined soccer/hockey complex at the location.
-There is still the possibility of a dual use hockey/basketball arena in downtown Phoenix. The Arizona Diamondbacks unhappiness at Chase Field is now in that mix. But there is no apparent leadership for a "grand bargain" on a downtown sports complex.
-The Coyotes could hang out at the Glendale arena. The team's lease was due to expire in June. Last month, the team's lease was extended till the end of the 2017-'18 season. AEG Facilities, which is owned by the parent of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, now runs the arena.
But don't worry, fans. I'm sure Gary Bettman will think of something.12 News anchor and politics reporter Brahm Resnik is a lifelong hockey fan. He has a hard time believing he has covered the Coyotes saga for more than 15 years. Resnik has attended several Stanley Cup parades for his Montreal Canadiens. He hopes to attend a Cup parade someday soon in Phoenix.