PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers' top executive on Thursday splashed cold water on a report giving hope that the National Hockey League's Arizona Coyotes could soon join the Blazers in calling Moda Center home.
“To my knowledge, no representatives from any NHL teams have toured Moda Center recently," Chris McGowan, president and CEO of the Blazers and the Rose Quarter, said in an emailed statement. The Rose Quarter includes Moda Center.
On Tuesday, the Glendale Daily Star reported that in the past three months Coyotes officials have toured both the Moda Center and Seattle's Key Arena. The story cited unidentified officials in both Seattle and Portland.
The Glendale Daily Star later updated the article, revealing that the Coyotes also denied the report.
The Coyotes have played in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Ariz., since 2003, but it's been 11 seasons since the team has ranked higher than third-worst in attendance. With its lease expiring, the Coyotes have worked to leave Glendale, but a recent bid to build a new arena on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe was scuttled last week by the university.
Anthony LeBlanc, president and CEO of the Coyotes, issued a statement calling the Glendale Star report "completely false" and reiterated the franchise's commitment to stay in the Phoenix area.
Portland has long been discussed as a potential home for an NHL franchise, for multiple reasons.
The Moda Center was designed to accommodate hockey. The Portland Winterhawks, a major junior hockey franchise that plays in the Western Hockey League, is playing 14 of its home games this year at the Moda Center.
Other reasons for speculation: An NHL club in the Pacific Northwest would fill a geographic gap for the league, which doesn't have a franchise between San Jose and Vancouver, British Columbia. And McGowan himself is familiar with running an NHL franchise: Before coming to the Blazers in 2012, he spent five years as chief operating officer of AEG Sports, overseeing the business operations of the Los Angeles Kings when the club won the Stanley Cup in 2012.
But the potential has never risen above murmurs and speculation. The Business Journal in 2011 reported on a grassroots effort to bring the NHL to Portland that included several local executives. And in 2013, Portland was listed as one of several possible landing spots for the Coyotes had the franchise, then owned by the league, not found an ownership group committed to keeping it in Arizona.
Erik Siemers is managing editor of the Portland Business Journal.