As of the beginning of the 2014 NHL Draft, the Phoenix Coyotes officially changed the name of the franchise to the Arizona Coyotes.
From the official statement on the Coyotes website:
“We are very excited that our franchise will change its name to the Arizona Coyotes at the NHL Entry Draft this week,” said Coyotes Co-Owner, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. “Becoming the Arizona Coyotes makes sense for us since we play our games in Glendale and the city is such a great partner of ours. We also want to be recognized as not just the hockey team for Glendale or Phoenix, but the team for the entire state of Arizona and the Southwest. We hope that the name ‘Arizona’ will encourage more fans from all over the state, not just the valley, to embrace and support our team.”
First of all, this is a move that was essentially dictated to the Coyotes by the Glendale City Council, it is a small consolation for the amount of money the city is paying the team to play there. Nonetheless it is an interesting marketing move and the Coyotes aren’t even the first franchise in their market to have tried this trick. In 1994 the Phoenix Cardinals re-branded themselves as the Arizona Cardinals.
The real question is whether it will add fans and sell tickets. The Coyotes finished last in attendance last season according to ESPN.com with an average attendance of 13,775 and 29th in capacity at 80.4%. The feedback on the team’s official Facebook page ranges from “Still the Coyotes. Still playing here instead of someplace like Seattle.” to “It’s like renaming your child, It’s not right!” While not a resounding endorsement it seems no one is cancelling their ticket package over this change.
So, will this help the Coyotes? In my opinion, no. Being in central Ohio I can say with high confidence that if the Columbus Blue Jackets were to become the Ohio Blue Jackets tomorrow it wouldn’t sell one more ticket. Most people who live in rural areas, as I have all my life, tend to identify with a metropolitan area close to them as their “big city”. They expect to have to go to this “big city” for things like big time concerts, 5 star restaurants and anything else that would be expected in a cultural hub; so identifying your professional sports team as from that city isn’t a problem.
Over the long run the only way to start selling more seats and growing hockey interest in the market is to both have a winning team on the ice and increase hockey participation with children and teenagers.