Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting to Know: The Phoenix Coyotes

So far, so good for the Preds after taking their first two contests away from home in Columbus and St. Louis. Now, the much anticipated home opener sees the Phoenix Coyotes (0-1-1) come to Bridgestone Arena hoping to pull out their first win of the young season after losses to division foes San Jose and Dallas. So what's the deal with these Coyotes anyway? A little short on knowledge of the team out in the desert? No worries. We've got you covered with all the important facts.

Origin: In December of 1995, Jerry Colangelo, owner of the NBA's Phoenix Suns and now MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks decided to pursue the idea of bringing the NHL to Arizona. Next thing everyone knew, the original Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix after the 1995-1996 season, thus becoming the "Coyotes" after a local name-the-team contest. Not a bad name, although their original logo sure was.

City: I'm going to try to be negative here. I personally really like the state of Arizona and the Phoenix area as a whole. The city of Phoenix is the sixth-largest city by population in the U.S. and is the only state capital in the country with over a million residents. The city is the heart of the "Valley of the Sun" and is home to the aforementioned Diamondbacks and Suns. Also, (fun fact forthcoming) the city has the unfortunate title of the "Kidnapping Capital of the U.S.", due to its immigrant smuggling and drug trafficking problems prevalent in the area.

That's Phoenix though. The Coyotes actually play in suburban Glendale, a city of just over 200,000 which is not exactly the Metro area's center of population (but we'll get to that later), which is best-known for hosting Super Bowls at the home of the Arizona Cardinals, who play right next door to the Coyotes in Glendale in the middle of a huge shopping center. Fun, right? Hey it's not bad but I prefer Broadway personally.

Famous People:  Well, this is a tricky one because of the large number of transplants that relocate to the area from really crappy and/or cold parts of the country in search of better weather, mountains, and outdoor sports. HOWEVER, there are some famous people who are actually from Phoenix (and Glendale), as as a large city there are a lot to choose from, specifically athletes. Aside from athletes, Jordin Sparks of American Idol fame, as well as the only person I've ever seen to spell Jordin like Jordin Tootoo, is from Glendale specifically. Speaking of music, Chester Beddington, lead singer of Linkin Park hails from Phoenix, as does (not speaking of music) first female Supreme Court member Sandra Day O'Connor. What a duo. The political families the Goldwaters and McCains also call Phoenix home. Last but not least, rising actress Emma Stone is from Phoenix. Nice.

Team: Aside from their success during their early years in Phoenix, the 'Yotes were a side-note to their coach, Wayne Gretzky, but after years of futility, he was canned as coach and Dave Tippett took the reigns just before the 09-10 season, and has led them to two straight playoff appearances, although losing to Detroit twice. The team is led by captain Shane Doan, who has been with the club since its Winnipeg days. The Coyotes also enjoy a disturbing amount of success against the Preds. It's not a good thing. New year, new trends. Watch out 'Yotes, we're comin' for ya.

Fans: Well, the struggles with Phoenix's attendance are often-documented, but there's two sides to each story. Is Phoenix a true hockey town? No it's not, and that's fine, but if the new arena the team plays in was closer to downtown Phoenix it may help to boost the attendance, but obviously that won't be happening. After failing miserably in an effort to buy our Preds and move them to Canada, Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie again failed in an attempt to move the Coyotes as well. The Thrashers recent departure to Winnipeg (ironic) seems to have saved the team's future for the meantime, although the city of Glendale has the final say on that. Although the team does have passionate fans, it does remain a largely quiet arena during most games, with many fans disguised as empty seats while averaging just over 12,000 a game. Ahead of only the Islanders. Oh well.

All in all, despite my relative positivity regarding the Coyotes and Phoenix, the bottom line is we should expect the Preds to remain undefeated and hand the Desert Dogs their third straight loss to start the season. Smashville will be hoppin' and ready to go. Go Preds, and behold the gold.

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