The Arizona city of Glendale’s battle with the NHL’s Coyotes is taking a toll on a variety of people, including long-suffering team employees, fans and players – players including star Yotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who spoke out Sunday in stark and unflattering terms regarding the saga. In an interview with Sebastian Noren of radio station ESPN 1230, Ekman-Larsson compared the municipality’s decision last week to dissolve its arena lease agreement with the Coyotes and Gila River Arena to an embarrassing comedic act.
But his first feeling was one of troubling deja vu.
“Not again”, Ekman-Larsson said of his initial reaction to yet another tremor involving franchise ownership, the city and the potential impact on the team. “We’ve been through so much the past couple of years, and now this happens. It’s disappointing and extremely frustrating that we have to go through something like this again.”
In the days following Glendale council’s vote to void the arena lease, Coyotes ownership obtained a restraining order against the city and filed a lawsuit against the municipality. And for Ekman-Larsson, the repeated distraction of business over hockey has become the type of public annoyance you might see at a circus.
“It feels like getting a pie in the face,” he said. “Everyone in the organization loves the arena and the area around it, so it feels bad that they (Glendale City Council) don’t want us there. It really sucks.”
There’s no doubt the news adds an unwanted element to the mix for Coyotes players, but with no end in sight to what could be a protracted legal showdown between the two sides, they’re well-advised to grow a thicker skin for the coming season. The questions, like the increasingly ugly feud, also aren’t going away.