People like to say the fans in Arizona will only follow a team if they win games.
While that appears to be the case, especially with the Cardinals, the best team in the state remains very much under the radar.
At 34-18-5 with 73 points, the Phoenix Coyotes are currently second in the Pacific Division and fourth in the NHL’s Western Conference, setting themselves up for their first playoff appearance since 2002.
Yet, you probably don’t know that.
The Coyotes have had big wins over conference rivals in the Red Wings, Sharks, Canucks and Blackhawks and exciting wins like Tuesday’s 10 round shootout in Nashville. They have beaten the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and yet, I’m betting most people around the Valley could not tell you a thing about how the Desert Dogs are doing.
They have stars like Shane Doan (who was the NHL’s First Star last week and Ilya Bryzgalov (who stopped 25 of 25 shots, and then 9 of 10 in the shootout Tuesday), and I bet there are many local fans who do not know who these two are.
Now, an admission: I fall closer to that group than I do with Coyotes and NHL die-hards. I would like to change that, however, and this year looks to be the perfect time.
As a sports fan, what do we look for out of the teams we follow? Exciting sport? Well, most people would agree that hockey is a very entertaining sport to watch live. Competitive team? We already discussed that. Players without giant egos who you will not find in the headlines for all the wrong reasons? After having the opportunity to cover the team some for Arizona Rubber Magazine, I can tell you the players on this team are worth rooting for.
So, why are people not watching what is happening over in Glendale?
It’s possible that the team’s losing ways alienated an already shaky fanbase, that disappointing year after disappointing year wore thin with fans. It is likely that hockey, as somewhat of a fringe sport here in the desert, just never took hold when the other major professional sports, as well as ASU, are in the same market.
If I had to guess, though, I would say the main reason fans have not gotten behind their hockey team is because of the location of their home ice. As anyone who has gone to a Cardinals game knows, the drive out to the West Valley from anywhere not in the West Valley can be a mess. Add rush hour traffic to that, and good luck getting anywhere by 7 p.m.
But I digress. We all have excuses- reasons- to have not been real Coyotes fans in the past. Hell, if there had not been all the rumors and talk about them possibly moving I doubt I would have given them as much as a second thought over the summer.
That they did not move to Canada and instead moved on from the disaster known as the Wayne Gretzky era not only gives us a second chance at being fans, but also the opportunity to watch quality, entertaining hockey.
Feel free to join me on the bandwagon; there is plenty of room for all of us.