New Owners Optimistic Franchise Will Work Out in Phoenix
PHOENIX (AP) _ Winter visitors who flood the Phoenix area are one reason the Winnipeg Jets are moving to Arizona.
``Phoenix is growing and growing,″ Jets co-owner Steven Gluckstern said Tuesday. ``I think the sport will take hold. People are knowledgeable about hockey here _ there are a lot of northerners, a lot of Canadians. The figure I heard is that a quarter of a million come down in the winter.
``When we looked at the picture, it made sense.″
Gluckstern said the soon-to-be-renamed Jets would share America West Arena with the Phoenix Suns for at least 15 years if revenue lives up to estimates.
``We have the desire to remain here for a long time,″ he said.
He said the lease with the Suns, who own the $89 million, 3 1/2-year-old building, has some escape clauses. In another long-term deal revealed during a question-and-answer session, Gluckstern said Jets president Barry Shenkarow, who led Winnipeg’s drive to acquire an NHL franchise, has agreed to be a consultant to the team for the next 10 years.
Because Phoenix, a boom town in the desert, is totally different from snowy Winnipeg, a change of name and colors is appropriate, Gluckstern said.
A uniform on the ``Phoenix Hockey″ logo was done in purple, the favorite color of Phoenix sports entrepreneur Jerry Colangelo. He has worked purple into the uniforms of the Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks, a 1998 baseball expansion team awarded to his investment group last March.
Gluckstern said he would use Phoenix rather than Arizona for the location name for a team that plays in the downtown arena. He said frequently suggested team names include Coyotes, Scorpions, Mustangs, Posse, Outlaws, Dry Ice and Jets.
The NFL Arizona Cardinals, whose headquarters and home field are in suburban Tempe, went by Phoenix Cardinals from 1988 through 1993, then renamed themselves to get a better edge in statewide marketing.
Gluckstern and partner Richard Burke said the players were upbeat about the move from Winnipeg, the only home the former World Hockey Association member has had. They also promised to put a good team on the ice for the 1996-97 season.
``We hope by the start of next year that we’ll have a playoff-contending team,″ Burke said.
Gluckstern said the Jets, with stars like Keith Tkachuk and top scorer Teemu Selanne, could be in that category now if not for an injury to goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who was 11-5 before he strained a ligament in his right knee.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman steered the owners toward Phoenix after their attempts to locate to the Minneapolis area fell through, setting up an initial meeting less than four weeks ago.
``In a very short period of time, everything fell into place,″ Colangelo said.