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

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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, Jobing.com 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.

source:

A = US Airways Center

B = Jobing.com 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: