Hockey the hard way? Coyotes open home slate with easy win over Jets
The Phoenix Coyotes have a new marketing campaign this
Hockey the Hard Way
And with that the franchise the Valley kind of wants to
keep around opened its home slate against the team that
they used-to-be-but-didn’t-want-to-be-again with a
satisfying 4-1 victory, one the Coyotes led from wire to
wire in front of a packed house with an announced
attendance of 17,132.
That said, don’t kid yourself. Not every seat in
Jobing.com Arena was occupied and the team will not have
that kind of support every game. But a fast start combined
with a reeling Cardinals and idle Suns could lead to more
fans checking out what’s happening in Glendale.
One would hope, at least.
“Obviously every single athlete wants to play in front of
a crowd,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “We all have
egos and we enjoy it. It is one of those things like that
when there is energy in the building our first shift was
an example of having a little ‘jump’ and it is a lot of
credit to the crowd.”
That crowd, of course, had a chance to turn the other
direction Saturday, as the arena had a strong contingent
of Jets fans. Chants of “Go Jets Go” could be heard before
the game, and a rough start could have been trouble.
Given the fickleness of Arizona fans – especially with
hockey – head coach Dave Tippett went into the game a
little concerned with how things could turn out.
Thirty-four seconds into the game the Coyotes took a 1-0
lead and those concerns began to subside simply because
the home team shut up the visiting fans.
“Scoring on the first shift certainly helps get our crowd
in the game and helps dissolve some of the emotion coming
from the Winnipeg fans,” Tippett said.
In a way this game was about the fans, too, as the Coyotes
faithful not only watched their team win a game, but were
able to enjoy a victory at Winnipeg’s expense, a cathartic
experience for some after the events of last summer.
Jets fans, for a while, thought the players in the red
sweaters were destined to wear blue this season, as
Winnipeg’s quest to land the NHL – again – led to many
believing the owner-less Coyotes would be moving north.
The Desert Dogs stayed put, though, with Atlanta’s
Thrashers instead relocating and becoming the Jets. So the
‘Peg has its team, albeit a last place one, and the Valley
gets to hold onto a sport that it should want to have
around, especially right now.
Think about it: the Coyotes are the only Valley team that
can say it has been to the postseason the last two years,
and has done so without stable ownership or the ability to
really do all they can to win. GM Don Maloney has done a
hell of a job and, even with the team losing goalie Ilya
Bryzgalov, has a squad that could again surprise and make
a playoff push.
And if by some miracle the team can land an owner by the
trade deadline don’t be surprised to see some moves that
transform the team from nice story to team no one wants to
face in the postseason.
But there’s still a lot of hockey to be played between now
and then, and it’s important to note how much energy and
emotion the home team played with in their latest win.
“It’s our home opener, so as much as it is you really want
to beat whoever you play it’s your home opener and you
really want to start the season off right and give
your fans something to be excited about and I think
tonight was a step in that direction,” Doan said.
Where they are ultimately heading is anyone’s guess, but
no matter how they get there chances are it won’t be easy.
Just how they like it.