Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Pour Some Out Fo' Ya' Dawgs
You know, before we get a rip-roarin' into some playoff action, I just want to talk about the Coyotes here for a second or two. Maybe even three if I can keep you from yawning.
Make Sure that Slipper Fits
You have to admire what the 'Yotes have done this year, or at the very least tip your hat, to a group of guys that no one outside the organization had hope for. Sure, there was a pipeline of youth that had been gushing into it from years of high draft picks, but those years were met with middling mismanagement of assets, and downright piss poor coaching *cough*Gretzky*cough*. Don Maloney's had his share of miscues in the front office, but there was something major happening as the team's owner, Jerry Moyes, fell into bankruptcy and attempted an underhanded sale to a bald man with a big bag of cash. Maloney's first smart move was hiring Dave Tippett as soon as it was announced that the elephant in the room was leaving. Then Tippett took care of the rest, motivating a team that was mired in the unknown, forcing them to focus on the season at hand, and beating the odds to get home advantage in the playoffs. Maloney showed some moxy by going out and picking up players that would help in the postseason, while shipping others out to clear the roster. And now here they sit, a date with destiny against the demons from Detroit. It could be a quick exit to the battle-tested champions from Michigan, or it could be something else, something no one would expect. Like the Coyotes making the playoffs.
Falling Out of Escrow
As of now, the NHL owns the Phoenix Coyotes, or at least until a new owner can be found. Preferably one that will keep the team in Arizona. While the Ice Edge group seems to be a solid group of hockey fans/businessmen, it appears as if they are now out of contention, with the most recent vote from the City of Glendale rejecting their arena lease plan, 5-1. Glendale finds Jerry Reinsdorf to be much more attractive, so much so that they unanimously approved his plan, and have also made a series of business viability concessions. The most important of which is the City covering the losses of the team at a maximum of a $100million over seven years. But also a minimum bargain price of $103million for the team and arena, which he is guaranteed (by the City) to get back in five years if he decides to sell. Glendale City Council didn't seem to believe that Ice Edge actually had the capital to buy the team, now Jerry doesn't even need it.
Building Momentum, Building a Base
There's no question that the Coyotes success this year is the best situation the League could have hoped for in terms of strengthening the fan base, appearing more attractive to potential buyers, and determining the overall viability of the team in its present location. In a trip out to 'the Job' earlier this year, it was evident that there was a passionate fan base just like in any other hockey city. However it was lacking serious quantity of that fan, and with the instability and unknown future the franchise found itself in, it's no wonder why. At least that's the hope.
Every city has bandwagon fans once the team is doing well and has the opportunity to win, but what we're all waiting to find out is how many of them stay, and support the team night in, and night out. And more specifically next year, in a sleepy game on a Wednesday night against the Islanders. The team has been aided by the vacationing hockey fan to the Phoenix area, curious to see what a hockey culture in the desert looks and feels like. You wouldn't believe how many Manitobans who were pining for their Jets I met, or how many youth hockey teams were filling the arena in the area for local holiday tournaments. But what it needs is the greater Phoenix resident to fill its seats and support its team for the success and perseverance they've shown. I hope old traditions like the whiteout from Winnipeg, and new ones like 'Throwing the Snake' stoke that fire in the fans.