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Off the Ice: All I want for Christmas is better fans

I’m already working on my Christmas list.

That may seem odd because it’s only the second week of
November and I’m an adult, but they’re fun to make.
Besides, how else will my boss someone know I
want that huge flat screen television or an NHL Center Ice
subscription?

However, the holidays are a time to think of others, so I
began to think about what the Phoenix Coyotes would ask
for. Maybe a big-name signing? A consistent future? An
owner? All of those sure would be nice, but wishes don’t
always come true. Sometimes you have to work at them and
that’s why, when I wrote my list, I asked for something
the Coyotes never would: better fans.

OK, cool your jets (no pun intended). I know you’re an
avid Coyotes fan and get to as many games as possible. You
yell and cheer at every game. You may even be a season
ticket holder, but that’s not my point. It’s not your
attendance I’m worried about, it’s your actions.

Coyotes fans are a tight-knit community and rightfully so.
First off, there are not a lot of us, so we have to stick
together, especially in a city where at least half of the
population would like to see the team moved to another
city. Hockey is a sport that encourages fan interaction –
for better or for worse – so you meet people at games, you
talk. I’ve seen season ticket holders greet each other as
old friends, which they most likely have become after
sitting next to each other for years.

But there is a problem with this closeness. It’s a tough
group to get into. For a fringe fan, the seasoned hockey
fan can be an intimidating and condescending obstacle to
learning to enjoy a game. Think about it. How many times
have you rolled your eyes or kept silent when a nearby
person asks, what we would consider, a dumb question?
Admit it. I’ve done it, so you’re not alone. That person
will likely never be seen by you again and, after all, you
came to the game to escape for a bit, not educate some
poor schmuck on the intricacies of hockey. It’s time to
change that thinking.

I think the Coyotes have some of the friendliest fans
around and it’s time for us to get out there. We need to
focus on welcoming new fans and helping them learn the
game. We need to sacrifice missing a faceoff or a shot to
explain to the person next to us why things are happening.
Our fan base needs to build a larger fan base.

This idea goes beyond calling a buddy and asking him to
come to a game. Having talked to a lot of people about
this (I moonlight as a bartender), the Coyotes have
several obstacles blocking out potential fans: distance,
lack of hockey knowledge and the dominance of other sports
in Phoenix. You, as a true fan, can solve all of these
problems.

Glendale isn’t convenient for everyone. I’m not going to
go into the absurdity of the Coyotes moving out there, but
just face it. Rather than planning on meeting your invited
friend there, offer to drive. Alcohol is part of hockey,
so further your offer by being a designated driver. Pile
as many new fans as you can into your car and get them to
the game. Remember, a butt in the seat is a butt in the
seat.

Hockey isn’t a tough game to understand. The rules are
fairly simple and it’s easy to explain it. Rather than
reluctantly offering information when asked by the fans
you brought, start talking about the game. Ask them if
they saw the play. Engage them. By keeping them interested
in the game, they’ll want to see a team do well. Odds are
that team will be the Coyotes.

Football is arguably the most popular sport in Phoenix,
followed by basketball. No stats or anything, just a
personal observation. Cardinals and Suns games are a good
time, but there is nothing like live NHL hockey. Splurge
on a lower level seats. Let the new fans get an eyeful of
just how fast hockey is, how hard the hits are and how
much fun it is to watch the team perform.

Not every person is going to be a hockey fan. That’s just
simple fact. Everyone has their preference, but a majority
of the people I’ve brought to games are now fans, or at
least interested in the team. They watch them on TV. They
ask about them. Going to a single game develops massive
amounts of free PR for the team and spreads the word about
a team that needs an owner. Those same people may end up
going to games on their own or asking to go with you
again.

I know you can do more, Coyotes fans. You may think of it
as an inconvenience, but imagine if the seats still remain
empty and the team is moved. It’s a lot bigger of an
inconvenience to drive to Canada to watch your team play.

My big screen TV with Center Ice is likely a pipe dream,
but adding Coyotes fans is not. Do more for your team.
Support them by bringing new fans in, not just yourself.
The team needs fans and support before they get an owner
and that all starts with you being better fans.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Off the Ice” is a new portion of
ArizonaSports.com where Carter Nacke will be covering and
discussing the Phoenix Coyotes throughout the season.
Contact him at cnacke@arizonasport
s.com
, tweet him at @carternacke or follow the blog’s twitter
feed at @OfftheIce620. Thanks for reading.