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Updated May 24, 2012 - 5:40 pm

Off the Ice: 2011-2012 season the renaissance of Coyotes hockey

A Phoenix Coyotes fan cheers in the second period during Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series against the Nashville Predators, Sunday, April 29, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes won 5-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It's over.

The Phoenix Coyotes' NHL season and incredible playoff run came to a devastating end on Tuesday when the Los Angeles Kings netted an overtime winner to book their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993.

And I couldn't be more proud of the Coyotes.

Here's a short list of accomplishments from a season that most experts though impossible.

• First Pacific Division Championship
• First time advancing past first round of playoffs since Winnipeg.
• First appearance in Western Conference Final.
• Third consecutive 40+ win season.

But the pinnacle moment of the season, to me, was the birth of a new phrase in Phoenix: "How 'bout those Coyotes?"

Phoenix has not been supportive of its hockey team in a long time. We're a town of winners and, let's face it, a losing team who plays in the middle of cow fields is not worth the drive for many, who would instead opt to spend their time and money on other things.

But then the amazing happened. The Coyotes, with little big-name talent and without big egos, built a successful hockey team. They started to win. They started to beat big teams. They started to make headlines and, as if people just learned about the Coyotes for the first time, the Desert Dogs had a fan base that was growing exponentially with every win.

Yes, I'm talking about the bandwagon that was rolling from the heart of the city all the way out to Westgate, bringing in new hockey fans who had never seen a game and sending them home with a passion and a few souvenirs. For nearly one month, Phoenix cared about a team that plays in Glendale, not on grass, but on ice. The D-backs were put on the back burner and Lord Stanley reigned supreme.

When the Coyotes lost, I was disheartened to see some people immediately opt to start talking about the D-backs or NBA playoffs, but a lot of those bandwagoners are still cruising around, wondering how the players whose names they were just beginning to learn went crashing out of the postseason so fast. They've been bitten by the hockey bug and I've got good news: it's all up hill from here.

There could not have been a better time for the Coyotes to put together a miraculous season. A new owner looks mere weeks away, the team will finally have the money to bring in some names and has the depth in place to make another deep run.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the upswing that long-time Coyotes fans have been waiting for. They always say things look darkest before the dawn. The Coyotes' situation was at its darkest just 13 months ago, when the they were swept by the Red Wings in the first round and reportedly mere minutes away from moving back to Winnipeg.

But then came the dawn of this season, of Greg Jamison and of Coyotes hockey becoming a talking point in the Valley once again. This season was the rebirth the team needed. From here, the Coyotes will only get better and the fan base larger. For all you bandwagon fans, stick around. This season wasn't a fluke, it was a promise.

A promise to fans, the NHL and, especially the Valley. A promise that the Coyotes are here to stay. A promise that the Coyotes are here to compete. A promise that hockey can, finally, work in the desert.

See you next season.


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