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Charles Barkley riffs on the NHL, Rick Tocchet, and the state of the Suns

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Charles Barkley was in the house for Monday’s game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena.

Barkley is a Philadelphia Flyers fan from his time with the 76ers, but he is also friends with Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, whose NHL career started with the Flyers the same season that Barkley began with the Sixers in 1984.

98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station caught up with him for a quick Q&A outside the Coyotes locker room.

How did you and Rick Tocchet meet?

Barkley: “I don’t actually remember because we’ve been together since the 80s. I turned into a big Flyers fan and a big hockey fan. It’s amazing how life comes full circle. He was a great player and now he’s the coach of the Coyotes. We have been through everything together and I’m so proud of his success.

“Not many guys become head coaches. To see a guy, 30 years later, become the head coach in your city is pretty cool. I remember calling him when he first got the job. It was really cool. I talk to Toc all the time, but I don’t bug him because he’s got a real job.”

How did you become a hockey fan?

Barkley: “Being from Alabama, we had a minor-league team called the Birmingham Bulls. I went to a couple games. I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on, I’m not going to lie to you, but then when I go to Philadelphia, [former Flyers goalie and current general manager) Ron Hextall became my favorite hockey player.

“I always knew that guy wanted to win. When I was watched him play, whether he was fighting or competing, I knew he wanted to win. That’s what I want from my guys so I became a Flyer fan.”

Why do you like hockey?

Barkley: “There’s nothing more exciting in sports than overtime hockey, especially when you get to the playoffs. I have said playoff hockey is better than playoff basketball because it is. It’s just crazy. It’s the greatest thing in the world.”

What is your take on the state of Phoenix sports?

Barkley: “We’re in a very tough time right now. I feel bad because our fans are great fans, but they’re only great fans when you’re winning. That’s not a negative. We can sit here and argue about it but we have a lot of snowbirds so it is what is. They’re not going to come out unless the team is successful, but we’re still one of the few cities that’s got all four major sports.

“We should be proud of that. They’re not having success, but they ain’t gonna win (expletive) in New York either. Let’s get that straight, but having all four sports let’s you know you’re a big-time city.”

What is your take on the state of the Suns?

Barkley (looks around, smiles): “This (expletive) guy just asked me a question that’s going to get my house burned down. I want to see the Suns do well. I pull for the Phoenix Suns. That’s how I’m going to answer your (expletive) question.

“We just did a thing over there where they brought the 1992-93 Western Conference champs back and me and Jerry [Colangelo] were talking for hours. He’s like, ‘we’re walking around here on eggshells.’ I’m like, ‘you can walk around on eggshells. I get paid to talk about it.’ They ask me questions and I’m like, ‘uh, I’m going to let that go right now,’ but I root for the Suns.”

Ok, well, then what’s your take on the state of American politics?

Barkley: “(Expletive), we don’t have that long.”

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