One last White Out to celebrate the Phoenix Coyotes
Published: April 19, 2011 @ 6:18am
Detroit Red Wings fans take their seats surrounded by Phoenix Coyotes White Out t-shirts prior to the start of Game 3 of a first-round NHL Stanley Cup playoffs hockey series between the Red Wings and the Coyotes Monday, April 18, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Last Wednesday afternoon Mrs. Espo's grandmother passed away. Over the last five days since her passing, the family and I have spent time celebrating her life, remembering the good times we had with her, soberly reflecting on her final months and mourning our loss by exploring our grief. Surprisingly enough, it was quite similar to the atmosphere at Jobing.com Arena on Monday night.
When I was originally assigned to do this column I thought I would write about how the White Out is, and has been, the greatest sporting event in Phoenix. It was a premise I genuinely believed. The same way I once believed Nicolas Cage was a fantastic, sane, actor. (I can't be right all the time. Or any of the time if you listen to my arguments with Mrs. Espo.)
See, I had been to every home opening White Out game as a fan since the Coyotes arrived in the Valley in 1996. It had become somewhat of a family tradition with my father taking my mother, brother and I. He had also taken us to Game 6 in 1997 when, with a 3-2 lead over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, they went to overtime and lost a heartbreaker. He even took us to Game 7 in 1999 when Jeremy Roenick returned from a broken jaw he suffered earlier in the series and they had a chance to advance. They once again lost in overtime this time to the St. Louis Blues.
The common thread between all of those games? An electricity that permeated throughout the building. An excitement that coursed through every fans veins like poetry, magic and insanity through Charlie Sheen's finger tips. Without fail, 17,000+ white pom-poms would shake in unison as if it were the world's largest cheerleading competition and every fans voice howled as if it were music to their ears. It was a feeling unmatched by anything else in local sports.
On Monday night I once again found myself at the first home game of a Coyotes playoff series (this time sans my father but with my younger brother). Through the player introductions and the first few minutes of the game, things seemed like they always had (except my old school Yotes jersey with the psychedelic logo was much tighter than it used to be thanks to my Oliver Miller-esque physique) . The fans were covered in white and as loud as they could be. Things were exciting and the White Out seemed much like it once was back in the America West Arena days. Then the Detroit Red Wings scored two goals in 44 seconds and everything changed.
Gone was the electricity and excitement. Both were replaced by the harsh reality of the situation facing our team.
All of a sudden Jobing.com Arena felt more like a hospital room than a sports venue. It was all white, everyone was uncomfortable and they were all waiting around until they were discharged and allowed to leave.
With the Coyotes playoff chances slowly slipping away and the once faint rumors of the team relocating to Canada reaching a crescendo louder than the cheers of the fans in attendance, the game had somehow become exactly what I was going through in my personal life. It felt like the entire building collectively began to mourn what they were on the verge of losing. The excitement had transformed into nervous, passive energy. Many fans, like my brother and I, began reminiscing about previous White Outs and the years we had spent -- or now possibly wasted -- rooting for a team that could be just a mere days away from going extinct.
With the Coyotes now down 3-0 to the Red Wings and with the City of Glendale and Matthew Hulsizer no closer to reaching an agreement it would take a miracle for the team to come out on top in either situation.
Like Mrs. Espo's family with her grandmother, all we, the fans, can ask for is one last chance to gather together, remember the good times and shed a tear for the love we have lost.
If the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman have already made the decision to give Winnipeg back their beloved Jets, the least they could do is let the fans in Phoenix know before Wednesday night. We've been through enough over the last few years that it's the very least they could do (the most being lowering the asking price for the team so Hulsizer can buy it without Glendale's help).
If this is the end, the fans and the team deserve one last night to share their appreciation of the past and their sadness for the future without each other. They deserve one last chance to make the White Out the best event in Valley sports. Even if it is just as a nice way to say one final goodbye at the end.