DAN BICKLEY

Coyotes fans turn relocation funeral into party with 1 last whiteout

Apr 17, 2024, 7:29 PM

Diehards had one parting wish. They wanted one final whiteout. They wanted the Coyotes’ last NHL game in the Valley to be a party, not a funeral. 

They proved one last time that we, the people, are not the problem with ice hockey in Arizona. 

One last time, for the record: 

The reason the Coyotes are leaving an expanding boom market with over five million people is our ragged history of small-time owners. Too often, the Coyotes were purchased by men who wanted to use the hockey team to build land-grab fortunes and empires. Our fandom was their ticket to shopping malls, hotels and entertainment districts. 

No one has ever purchased the Coyotes for the love of hockey or the pursuit of the Stanley Cup. And it showed. 

The Coyotes clearly violated the top three rules of real estate: location, location, location. Their only real home was a palace on the west side when all the Midwesterners, Northeasterners and Canadians live in the East Valley. 

The problem is the Coyotes have given us one of the worst fan experiences in the history of professional sports. They’ve had one extended playoff run in 28 years. They’ve hung one banner. They never played for a Cup. 

They’ve spent more time in bankruptcy court than in serious pursuit of a championship. They turned Wayne Gretzky into a flaming failure, shaming the greatest player in hockey history who was powerless to stop the franchise narrative … a destiny that will now stretch from Winnipeg to Phoenix to Glendale to Tempe to Salt Lake City. 

The Coyotes had rare moments of bravado. But almost all of their big-splash signings failed spectacularly. Occasionally, a top draft pick didn’t want to play or stay in the circus, under our curious big top. 

There was a time in May 2012, when the NHL in Arizona reached its potential, staging playoff games in exquisitely frigid arenas while the desert sizzled under the hot summer sun. The juxtaposition was intoxicating and exhilarating. But after their dramatic run to the Western Conference Finals, the franchise went back into hibernation, confirming it was all some wild fluke. 

Finally, after asking fans to endure one last rebuild and one last heaping teaspoon of bitter medicine, our hockey franchise has finally built something hopeful. But our time has run out. And the only corners they will be turning are on their way to Loop 101, connecting them to the I-17 and all the way up to Utah. 

We are not only absolved from all blame. We remain among the most cynical and disconnected heavyweight sports towns in North America. We don’t always cheer for the home team. We need big events and lots of entertainment. It takes a lot to make us care. 

We couldn’t possibly miss a franchise that was so bad and so dysfunctional for so long, right? 

To their credit, Coyotes fans have always been different. And in the end, they proved the fan base is the only thing worthy of a Stanley Cup in Arizona. 

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6–10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

Dan Bickley

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Coyotes fans turn relocation funeral into party with 1 last whiteout