In the 2022-23 season, the Arizona Coyotes will be playing at a 5,000 seat arena at Arizona State University following the expiration of their lease at Gila River Arena. At just over 27 percent of the capacity of their prior venue and less than a third of the size of the smallest venue in use by a current NHL team (Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at 15,294), team officials are painting the experience as “intimate.”

They’re also making it very, very expensive – attempting to stick the small number of fans who will be able to attend games with ticket prices that will mean the same amount of revenue for the team as if they were still playing at the larger barn.

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The least expensive season ticket offer is $89 per game, with the highest price on the glass going for $350 per game. For comparison’s sake, the least expensive Arizona Coyotes tickets at Gila River Arena for the 2021-22 season were sold at an equivalent of $18/game, with front row glass seats at $290/game.

“This will tell you why it is they need a new arena: We’re not sure there’s going to be a material difference between their revenues at ASU and in Glendale,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told ESPN, adding that the league didn’t have a problem with the pricing scheme as long as the team didn’t try to stay in the cozier venue long-term. “In fact, under one projection that we’ve done, we think they may do better.

Team ownership is working on getting approval for a new arena to be built in Tempe. Plans are to be at the college venue through at least the 2024-25 season and possibly through the end of the 2026 campaign if the new stadium takes longer than hoped for approval and construction. A $1.7 billion arena and entertainment complex plan was submitted to the Tempe City Council in September of last year, but has not yet seen a vote.

The reaction has been harsh, with critics pointing out the fact that team is dead last in the Western Conference – having scored a league-worst minus-107 goals compared to their opponents on the year, yet attempting to more than double the price most fans are paying.

“I don’t care how ‘intimate’ the viewing experience will be. That’s just outrageous on a scale that should trigger citywide protests,” says Adam Proteau of The Hockey News. It would be one thing if the Coyotes were “asking fans to pony up to see a team that’s going to be good next season.” The Coyotes “almost certainly will be sub-par,” and their ticket-pricing choices “aren’t going to lead to full houses at the ASU arena.” They are “going to be exclusionary in nature,” and the growth of the game in Arizona is “going to suffer for it.”

Fans also point out that the cheapest seat in the building is far, far higher than current prices show on the secondary market – reflecting the true demand for those seats.

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In the years since the franchise relocated from Winnipeg, the Coyotes have made it out of the first round of the playoffs just twice – falling in the conference finals in 2011-12 and falling in the first round after winning a qualifying round matchup in the expanded 2019-20 playoffs. That most recent appearance was the team’s only playoff bid in the last 10 seasons including the one that ends tonight. The reaction to the prices being asked in the smaller venue a year from now centers around this fact – is this an organization that has earned the right to ask those prices of its fans?

“Next season, when large swaths of seats remain unoccupied in the Coyotes’ new rink, what will be the excuse from the league and team owners who are OK with this financial money pit in the Arizona desert?” asks Proteau. “There will be no legitimate excuse. What we’re seeing with the Coyotes is avarice, plain and simple. And their long-suffering hockey fans deserve much better than a naked money grab.”

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