THE MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS are more than just a little offended that some NHL fans have forgotten they exist.
The Ads are in the heat of a Calder Cup run, but their playoff-focused Twitter page in recent days has been conspicuously speckled with ice-meltingly-hot disses for anyone who disrespects Milwaukee’s only professional hockey team.
“MiLwAuKeE sHoUlD gEt A pRoFeSsIoNaL hOcKeY tEaM” pic.twitter.com/ofbqan5N4U— x – Milwaukee Admirals (@mkeadmirals) May 18, 2023
“Not everyone is going to be Wendy’s. We’re not out here roasting people,” says Jaymee Ebbers, the Admirals’ director of digital content, noting the fast-food chain’s reputation for having a sassy (and sometimes rude) social media presence.
In addition to the ongoing Stanley Cup Playoffs, NHL conversations in the Twittersphere of late have been sparked by speculation that the Arizona Coyotes franchise may be relocating — perhaps even to Milwaukee, where they could become Wisconsin’s first-ever major league hockey team. Just don’t say they will be Milwaukee’s first professional hockey team, unless you want to get made fun of on the bird website.
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Here’s the not-so-brief rundown of what’s gone on over the past week:
- The National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes are probably moving out of the Phoenix area in the near future. The team was nearly evicted (literally) from its own arena midseason in 2021 after falling into a seven-figure debt to, among others, the State of Arizona and the City of Glendale. (That’s Glendale, Arizona. The Arizona Coyotes have no known feuds with Glendale, Wisconsin.) On May 16, the people of Tempe voted (by a significant 12-point margin) against allowing a $2.1 billion entertainment district that could’ve included a new hockey arena.
- The Coyotes now are resigned to hosting games on a collegiate hockey rink with a capacity of 4,600, half the maximum attendance of the UW-Panther Arena that the Admirals call home.
- The Coyotoes have, admittedly, not been good. Like, ever. They are the NHL’s oldest team to have never even made it to the Stanley Cup Finals — despite having been previously coached and partially owned by “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky. Founded as the original Winnipeg Jets in 1972 before moving to the Phoenix area in 1996, they have missed the playoffs each of the last 11 seasons excluding the pandemic-affected 2020. Financially, the franchise has struggled too. When a prior owner started going into bankruptcy in 2009, the team was effectively owned by the NHL itself until 2013. In 2019, billionaire media mogul and casino magnate Alex Meruelo took over.
- Meruelo doesn’t seem to like the idea of selling or moving the team, and neither does NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Meruelo is the first-ever Latino owner of an NHL team and has expressed that he wants to grow the sport of hockey through outreach to the Latino community around largely-Hispanic Phoenix. But without a stadium, Meruelo’s dream might be melting away — like ice in the Arizona sun. (See what we did there?) The team’s front office said in a public letter after the vote failed “We remain committed to Arizona.” How serious they are is anyone’s guess. The Coyotes’ official Twitter said they were leaking their rejected arena plans, but instead the link they posted was a 10-hour long compilation of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” (LOL)
That all brings us to last week’s Milwaukee-based hilarious tweets.
One such tweet was from @mkerobert, who said “I would absolutely get into Hockey if Milwaukee got a team.” The Admirals replied with a “Sup Bob?” and a “Who wants to tell him?” (@mkerobert later admitted to his “bad take.”)
Sup Bob?— x – Milwaukee Admirals (@mkeadmirals) May 19, 2023
Later, the Ads’ Twitter just gave a sneaky “ahem” to @Sneako27, who said “It’s a crime that the state of Wisconsin doesn’t have a hockey team.”
LOOK 👀— x – Milwaukee Admirals (@mkeadmirals) May 19, 2023
Professional hockey players at morning skate. pic.twitter.com/hWzV1svyaU
Ebbers, who runs the team’s Twitter page, says that “clapping back in a respectful way” has been “cathartic.”
“It’s just unfortunate that some people don’t understand that these guys (the Admirals) are professional athletes. They make money playing hockey,” she says. “These guys are really, really good hockey players … I watch these guys every day. I see the work they put in. They deserve respect.”
Ebbers puts the nub of the matter like this: “No one is saying Milwaukee shouldn’t get an NHL team. We’re saying that Milwaukee already has a professional hockey team.”
So that begs the question: Could we get an NHL team?
Even though NBA and NHL seasons almost perfectly align (from October to April, generally), nearly a dozen other venues are able to host both NHL and NBA teams simultaneously because the two leagues have been amiable in scheduling.
In the old days, the Admirals and Milwaukee Bucks managed sharing the Bradley Center (R.I.P.).
Fiserv, likewise, is equipped to host hockey games. The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild brought the NHL most recently to Milwaukee via a preseason game last year.
The Coyotes moving to Milwaukee may not even hurt the Admirals. “Look at how many minor league baseball teams we have around?” Ebbers says, noting how the semipro Milwaukee Milkmen, Lake Country DockHounds and Kenosha Kingfish are doing just fine in the shadow of the Brewers.
I am a Hockey Player
The Admirals are one of the more successful franchises in the American Hockey League, the NHL’s minor league.
The team has been around in various forms since 1970, and has been to the Calder Cup Finals (the AHL’s version of the Stanley Cup) twice, including a 2004 championship. More than half-a-dozen Ads this year played up with the Nashville Predators in the NHL during their final — albeit unsuccessful — push to qualify for the playoffs. Earlier this month, the Admirals resolidified their partnership with the Predators, and they will be affiliated through at least 2024.
The Admirals in 2022-23 ranked 16th out of 32 AHL teams in ticket sales, with 5408 in attendance per game at the UW-Panther Arena. That’s ahead of equitable markets like Tucson (29th in ticket sales), Calgary (26th) and San Jose (32nd).
On Sunday, May 21, the Ads won their second playoff series of the year to advance to the Calder Cup semifinals and now are four wins away from their third-ever Finals appearance. They’ll return to the ice May 25 for game one against the Coachella Valley Firebirds. Go to milwaukeeadmirals.com/schedule to get tickets to games three and four in Milwaukee.
Sportsbooks are already taking bets about where the Coyotes will end up. Milwaukee, as it lacks an NHL team AND because we’ve already got coyotes galore, seems a natural fit. Bookies.com (as of May 19) is giving Milwaukee +850 odds of landing the Coyotes, but that’s only if they move, so we’re pretty much a longshot. The frontrunner by far is Houston, which Bookies.com is betting has a 40% chance of landing the team.
This isn’t the first time there’s been consideration that Milwaukee could get an NHL team. More than 30 years ago, Lloyd and Jane Pettit were considering a bid to bring an NHL team to the Bradley Center, but backed out in 1990 when the price got too high. Milwaukee has been speculated as a potential home for NHL expansion since, but nothing finite has arisen.
Let’s just say: The Coyotes may be coming, maybe.