Phoenix Coyotes staff, coaches, players and fans have come to be used to the derision and lack of respect directed at them by hockey fans, particularly the elitist brand from Canada. It’s sometimes entertaining to bait the anti-Coyotes trolls that inhabit the social media outlets of the Internet.
To be honest, some of the lack of respect is well deserved and thoroughly earned.
Since moving to the desert from Winnipeg in 1996, club ownership drained the life and money out of the Coyotes with questionable business and sports moves. The initial venue, America West Arena, for the Coyotes was NOT a good hockey arena, yet plenty of tickets were sold and the team hit the playoffs every but one that they were owned by the Jerry Colangelo consortium. After some years of successful ticket sales, the team was again sold in 2001 to local developer Steve Ellman. That sale marked the last day the Coyotes hockey team was owned by people with a sports business background and the beginning of the comedy of errors that contribute to the virtual clown hat the team wears today.
The search for placement of the planned new arena involved some incredible machinations by then owner and perennial bankruptcy court attendee Ellman. An unfavorable lease with the City of Phoenix had Ellman looking towards the site of a then-defunct eyesore shopping center, Los Arcos, in Scottsdale. The citizens of Scottsdale didn’t like the proposal, and somehow the shopping center was demolished and surrounded by chain link fence to add to the pressure on the city. When that didn’t work, Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that he was considering the site for another one of his press-grabbing “tent cities”. That also didn’t work, and the view turned west toward Glendale.
In Glendale, a new and beautiful for hockey arena was built and a shopping center, WestGate was conceived and constructed by none other than Steve Ellman. Yes, that business venture of Steve’s has also been down the bankruptcy road. Apparently, judging by the endless failed negotiations that have since spotlighted the arena agreement with Glendale, that lease agreement was also completely unfavorable and unworkable for the Coyotes hockey team. Ellman once again threw in the towel on a business he couldn’t successfully manage and sold the Coyotes to his pal Jerry Moyes (of Swift Transportation fame) in 2005.
What seemed to be the culmination of the ownership fiasco was a last minute declaration of bankruptcy in 2009 that, to the interested observer, appeared to be a deliberate attempt by then owner Jerry Moyes and Jim
Balsillie (of BlackBerry and egotistical blowhard fame) to circumvent the wishes of the National Hockey League (NHL) in finding a new owner for the troubled Coyotes. The story is that the head of the NHL, Gary Bettman was on his way to Phoenix to present an offer sheet, presumably already approved by the NHL, to Moyes. When Moyes and Balsillie got wind of it, they trotted out the necessary lawyers to file for bankruptcy before Bettman got off the plane. Let it be said that Balsillie had already made a few enemies in hockey circles with his steamrolling techniques trying to buy two prior hockey teams. It had also become known that the NHL was secretly injecting millions of dollars into the team through Moyes pockets in an attempt to stem the tide of massive losses. Their plan was foiled by the NHL and a US Federal Bankruptcy Court, which put the fate and ownership of the Coyotes firmly in the hands of the NHL.
There are thousands of words that could be written about the circus of failed negotiations and the bizarre series of events that we, the Coyotes faithful, have witnessed since the bankruptcy filing. Suffice it to say that there are many players in the tragedy that is the Coyotes business saga and many are joke-worthy. We’ve heard them all and even joke about them ourselves when we feel like indulging in gallows humor. That said, there are some things that we don’t joke about and a lot of people that we hold in the highest regard.
Both General Manager Don Maloney (refered to reverently as GMDM) and Head Coach Dave Tippett are respected by hockey people as well as Coyotes fans, recognized as GM and Head Coach of the Year respectively.
Our (yes, OUR) team also has our respect. There are few, if any, ‘superstar’ calber guys on the team, yet they managed to reach the playoffs two years in a row. They work hard on the ice and, usually, keep banging away until the end of the game. We’ve had disappointing runs, but it’s a sport and we expect them.
In all that, there’s one guy I’m fairly comfortable saying we all respect the most. It’s our (yes, OUR) Captain, Shane Doan. Again, Doaner could be the subject of thousands of words written by people more capable than myself. None of those words, however, would be or could be disparaging. We’re proud to have him on our team and any knowledgeable hockey people know that Doaner is, in fact, THE MAN.
So, last night, January 7, 2012, we attended another Coyotes hockey game at Jobing.com, we don’t miss many. I admit to a little trepidation because the team was on a bit of a bad streak and climbing down the standings. This game against the Islanders was the best game I’ve ever seen, and I have been participating in and watching hockey every year since 1959 (or so). Why was this my favorite game?
Shane Doan got a hat trick, pure and simple.
For the uninitiated, a hat trick is scoring three goals in one game. It’s a tremendous accomplishment and rare, but not EXTREMELY rare. In fact, ex-Coyote Danny Briere scored a hat trick last night as well.
Doaner, even though he had played as a power forward in 1160 NHL games over 20 years, never scored a hat trick. He had scored two 38 times before, and he even admitted to getting hat trick advice from his son. Yet, the hat trick elude Doaner. Until last night.
The attendance at the game was good, but not spectacular. We’ve come to expect that, with the turmoil surrounding the team and the nearly complete lack of support from the local press (more on this later). After Shane’s second goal, things changed perceptibly in the arena. Everybody in the arena knew Doan was eligible for a hat trick, most knew it would be his first. Did I mention that we love this guy? So do his teammates.
Some Islanders fans left, it’s not much fun watching your team having their Wheaties eaten 4-1. Everybody else stayed and held their breath, hoping against hope that maybe THIS time Doaner would get his hattie.
Hockey is a game of sprints, a typical shift in the NHL is 30 to 45 seconds, after which the player exits the rink until his next shift. The sport of hockey, particularly at the NHL level, is lightning fast and rough, demanding complete attention for each intense shift. Seriously, it’s tough.
In the last five minutes of the game, Shane Doan was on the ice for what seemed to be 4 1/2 minutes. I saw him collapse to the bench, nearly completely exhausted, in the last two minutes of the game and knew that he wouldn’t be effective on the ice the rest of the game. It looked like he would, once again, come up just a little short regardless of his huge effort and that of his teammates who got him the puck for repeated scoring chances. People in the stands gasped, shouted, slapped their forehead each time Shane got a shot that looked like it had a chance yet missed.
The clock ticked away and it got quieter in the arena as we all were slowly losing hope. The shouts of ‘Doan-ER, Doan-ER’ were gone, we all watched the game dwindle down to a close. When the Islanders finally fought off the flurry of Coyote attackes and the puck ended up down the ice with maybe 10 seconds (very little time in a hockey game) left, we were pretty sure that we’d go out to our cars happy with a win but disappointed for Shane Doan.
Then it changed.
Ray Whitney snagged the puck, Shane started down the ice toward the Islanders goal. Ray took a few strides and passed it to exhausted Doaner skating as hard as he could toward the goal. The pass was right on Doaner’s stick, so he leaned into it with a hard slap shot as the clock ticked down past zero.
The puck, Doaner’s first NHL hat trick, went into the net with .1, yes one/tenth, of a second left on the clock. Jobing.com erupted.
The rest of the celebration and the noise you can imagine. Hats flew from the stands onto the ice. Everybody screamed and clapped as loud as they could. Did I mention we love this guy? Hard core fans eyes teared up even while they were screaming, none of us could believe it actually happened and that we were lucky enough to be there to see it. The Coyotes team mobbed their captain, every single one of them as happy, maybe happier, than if they had scored the hat trick themselves. Keith Yandle talks about Shane Doan’s hat trick (OffTheIce, arizonasports.com).
It was magical, the angst and drama surrounding our team was washed away by our pride and happiness.
Here is a picture of the local paper this morning and a picture of the first page of their sports section of their web site. Where is the picture of Shane Doan or the celebrating team or the ecstatic fans? On the web site, higher on the page than constant Coyotes supporter Jim Gintonio’s story (red arrow) on Doaner’s hat trick is a mostly negative Coyotes article by a mostly negative guy. This, unfortunately, is typical of local press and media. We almost never see the ‘sports guys’ or the local television trucks at any games.Forgetting for the minute the chicken and egg argument that ‘winning sells’ (in car racing we called it ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’). Our entire world is mired in an economic mess of crazy proportions, entire continents are in economic danger and turmoil. Here, in the Phoenix Coyotes, is a local BUSINESS that has struggled for some time with low attendance figures, they could use a boost. The local paper (NOT locally owned, by the way, and partnered with a local television station as well), on the day after such an inspiring sports event, features a football goal kicker and a headline that has absolutely nothing to do with local sports. Shouldn’t they, in the interest of their readers, provide information about a local business working through tremendous adversity to hopfully succeed eventually in generating local revenue?
There remains a distinct lack of standup guys in professional sports, in fact wasn’t Phoenix the home of the professional athlete who declared that sports figures should not be considered role models? Yes, it was Charles Barkley and, in his case, he is absolutely correct. In Shane Doan’s case, however, ‘Sir’ (where did that moniker come from?) Charles would be completely wrong. Shouldn’t the presence of an adult male professional athlete who is captain of his team, the recipient of a leadership award from his league, a father and, from every account I have ever heard, ‘the nicest guy you will ever meet’ be featured as often as possible in ANY one of those capacities by the local media? My opinion, and I vote with my wallet, is YES.
Sure, being a hockey fan, I am biased and would love to see more mainstream press coverage of the sport I enjoy so much. The local media here in the Phoenix metro area, with the exception of maybe six print and radio people and the Fox Sports Arizona crew, are disinterested, misinformed and undereducated about hockey. Does withdrawing my support (subscriptions, viewing, advertising dollars) affect their decisions about what to cover in their papers?
Let’s find out.
In the meantime, read these:
Off the Ice: Doan’s hat trick a top moment in sports
Look up Jim Gintonio on the web site mentioned, I’m not providing a link.
Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan finally gets his hat trick.
Craig Morgan, Fox Sports Arizona: After 16 years, Doan finally gets his hat trick