GLENDALE, AZ (Lighthouse Press) _ It wasn't the pile of beer bottles or the broken hockey sticks in the hallways. It wasn't even the Zamboni sitting in the garage, unable to move because its engine had been replaced by the head of the team's mascot.
It was the overwhelming smell of decay and neglect that was most disturbing.
"The first thing you get when you walk in Jobing.com Arena is a huge whiff of whatever is festering in here," said George Gosbee, one of the new owners of the Phoenix Coyotes. "As soon as we turned the key, we could smell the sweaty leather and stale soda and rotting hot dogs. Then we got a look at the place.
"Not the best first day as a team owner, I can tell you."
The Coyotes had been owned by the National Hockey League's Board of Governors, who bought the team out of bankruptcy four years ago. After running the franchise on a shoestring budget, the NHL sold it to Ice Arizona, a group headed by Gosbee and his partner Anthony LeBlanc for $170 million.
At some point this past weekend, the NHL and the squatters living inside the arena moved out. Ice Arizona had its first full look inside after finalizing the deal on Monday.
"It was a shocker. It was definitely a shocker," LeBlanc said.
Animal feces clogs the concourse. Walls are punched out on different levels of the locker room. One even has the autograph of enforcer Paul Bissonnette. Pizza boxes and beer bottles are piled on the bench, and mounds of chicken bones are scattered across the floor of the coach's office.
"It looks like some crazy people had a wild frat party that lasted for years," said Gosbee. "It's unbelievable that someone would live like this, no matter how much they wanted to screw your landlord over."
Neighbors said they rarely saw the NHL at Jobing.com. The arena was usually quiet and saw few visitors over the years. What went on inside in the building was a mystery even to occasional inspectors from the city, who said they had no information on the former tenants.
In the team's offices, where general manager Don Maloney has pieced together a competitive roster despite a meager payroll, the new owners found a single working phone line and a few overloaded electrical outlets with burn marks and melted faceplates.
Boxes of letters from other would-be Coyotes owners sat pushed against an office wall. Letter after letter from businessmen expected to be the team's saviors are stuck together in a faded, crusty mass of unrealized dreams. Behind the boxes was the flattened body of a cat that had become trapped years ago and was either starved or crushed to death.
"I don't know what possesses a person to destroy their home this way," a visibly LeBlanc said. "I've contacted all 29 previous owners but haven't gotten any responses. To be honest, I don't expect any."
Gosbee and LeBlanc said they expected to begin the clean-up process immediately with the intention of fixing the Coyotes and possibly moving them within the next five years or so.
More on the Coyotes:
- The Undertaker Wins Phoenix Coyotes at Wrestlemania
- Islanders To Claim Greg Jamison Off Waivers from Coyotes
- Long Painful Story Finally Ends, Public Does Not Demand Sequel
I totally used this story as a basis for this satire. Don't buy your next house from an NBA bench player.