If any of you are hockey fans, you will know that the Phoenix Coyotes are in some major financial trouble. Almost anyone who follows the sport could have predicted this: Hockey+Desert=No Bueno. What makes the whole Coyotes situation much worse is that they left a natural hockey market with great fans for this failing non-traditional market. As a die hard hockey and football fan, the Phoenix situation intrigues me because, not only are there similarities between the Winnipeg to Phoenix (1996) and Los Angeles/Anaheim to St. Louis (1995) move, but there is a great possibility that the Coyotes franchise may return to Winnipeg as soon as 2011 while the Rams franchise could return to L.A. in the near future as well. Because Winnipeg may be getting their franchise back, perhaps we should look at the history of each teams’ move and what Winnipeg did to [seemingly] lure their team back and use it as somewhat of a guide for our own cause.
The comparisons between the Los Angeles Rams and the Winnipeg Jets are eerily similar with both moving for short-term monetary gain while not looking at the big picture. Canada in the mid-1990s had an extremely unfavorable exchange rate with the U.S. Dollar, and because of that, small markets in Canada (Winnipeg and Québec City) suffered. Both of the aforementioned NHL teams ended up moving because in the short-term they would have lost money. Québec City moved to Colorado to become the Avalanche (now owned by our good friend Stan Kroenke) which turned out to be a fiscally responsible move in both the short and long-terms. Winnipeg, however, moved to Phoenix which was okay in the short-term, but set them up for failure in the long term. As we all know, the Los Angeles Rams had a long storied history with a great fanbase, however, because of the commonly perceived notion that owner Georgia Frontiere was running the team into the ground, attendance faltered and the team fell on hard times. Georgia decided to take a great deal for the short-term (a sweetheart deal in St. Louis) while dooming the team to failure in the long-term. Both the Winnipeg Jets and the Los Angeles Rams were going through tough times (and it certainly didn’t help that both teams had sub-par venues), but that doesn’t mean that both cities deserved to lose their respective franchises. It is clear to any independent observer that both cities could have easily recovered from the hard times and been better for it. The Canadian dollar eventually made a recovery, and actually, one can easily view the exchange rate as favorable to the Canadians in the modern day. The Rams, on the other hand, with a Super Bowl win in 2000 (1999 season) would have cemented that team in Los Angeles sports lore and would have made an incredible amount of money. Georgia, with her ego could have also hosted scores of celebrities and skyrocketed her into Los Angeles sports history. Even with the hard times that the Rams franchise is going through right now, the team value would be exponentially greater (well over $1 billion) and would have greater support than in St. Louis: an excellent example of this is the unwavering loyalty of Los Angeles football fans towards their teams in good and bad years, just look at the Rams history in LA, the UCLA Bruins, and USC Trojans.
In the modern day, both teams face major issues (especially with attendance) because of the teams’ respective owners’ inability to foresee these problems by focusing only on the short-term. The Phoenix Coyotes are now owned by the National Hockey League and is in desperate need of a new owner . . . there just happens to be a billionaire waiting up in Canada for that franchise. The Rams on the other hand are not hurting financially because of the NFL’s revenue sharing, however, they are hurting when it comes to attendance, the fact that their stadium in incredibly inadequate, and an uninterested fanbase. It also just so happens that there is a billionaire (a few of them actually) that want to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles. After all the heartbreak in both Winnipeg and Los Angeles, it seems very possible that both cities could be getting their respective teams back.
Part of the reason Winnipeg will probably be getting their team back, is the vocal outcry from the fans from Manitoba and all around Canada. It is nearly impossible to find an article on any blog, newspaper, or other online sports page that doesn’t have hundreds of comments demanding the return of the Winnipeg Jets. This is where we fall short. Manitoba has a population of 1,232,694, yet they have found a way to be loud and vocal and have almost 20,000 fans on their facebook page in comparison to our 2,000. The Los Angeles metro area (CSA), in comparison, has almost 18,000,000 people . . . the people of Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire, and indeed any LA Rams fan needs to become more vocal about the Rams return to Southern California. We need to make it so we cannot be ignored, we need to rally around the return of the Los Angeles Rams and make the National Football League hear our cries. Write Roger Goodell, write Stan Kroenke, write your local sports writers in the LA Times, OC Register, or other papers, talk to your friends, do whatever you can possibly can for the Los Angeles Rams.