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"Head-shotted" Coyotes need chance to heal

I guess it's all about where you stand.

At the Phoenix Coyotes - Tampa Bay Lightning tilt this past Monday, I was standing at the top of the lower-bowl stairs waiting to go back to my seat at a play stoppage. Someone next to me looked out at the crowd and muttered, "This just isn't good."

God help me, I was actually incredulous. Not good? There are nearly 10,000 people here! I thought to myself.

It was a terrific example of the giant gulf that exists between those observing the Phoenix Coyotes from afar and those who have lived and breathed them for years. The two viewpoints are mutually exclusive - it seems some days that, like matter and anti-matter, the two cannot exist in the same universe together.

As evidenced by a recent AP article about the Coyotes' attendance, there is a substantial group of people who expect the Coyotes to either be selling out every game or, if they can't pull that off, to relocate to greener pastures in Canada. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of intermediate options from this camp. They read in the news that the Coyotes are averaging 9,000-10,000 fans per night over the past couple of weeks and say to themselves, What a joke. They seriously want to keep a hockey team here when they can't even get a half-full barn?

At the other end of the spectrum are people like me, who see 9,000-10,000 person crowds as a wonderfully optimistic sign. We, of course, are the folks who showed up for games after the sold-out home opener to see less than 3,000 people occupying seats at Jobing.com Arena. A 9,000-person crowd, therefore, is a significant improvement.

What we can't figure out is how anyone on this planet could expect Phoenix to fill the Job to the rafters now, only a month after warding off Jim Balsillie and Richard Rodier's coup attempt on our franchise. Hell, we weren't selling out the Job before that because our team, in a word, sucked. But we certainly had a lot more people showing up before this summer, when Rodier, his puppet Jerry Moyes, and their lawyer minions were barraging season ticket holders with court filings and cover letters saying everything from "You are going to lose all of your money!" to "The NHL is going to move the team anyway!"

To draw a metaphor from current NHL events, a lot of folks seem to think the Coyotes "got their bell rung." As fans, we had our heads down and deserved to get trainwrecked. It's business, they say (in the same tone as people say, "It's hockey!" when someone is seriously injured). But like a hockey player with a severe concussion, saying that someone has "got their bell rung" vastly understates the gravity of the problem.

When I was a kid, I suffered a severe concussion at school. I don't even remember anything of the first day after it happened except for excruciating, blinding pain and violent nausea. I couldn't even sit upright for a week, and my parents had to monitor me around the clock to make sure that when I slept I would eventually wake up. I missed a month of school and, even when I returned, I suffered from headaches, nausea, dizziness, and memory loss. It's been nearly thirty years since my recovery, and even now I still have post-concussion symptoms.

My perspective on head-shots in the NHL, therefore, is quite different from the fan on the couch who can't understand why a player isn't back playing a week after being carted off the ice unconscious on a stretcher. And it also gives me a different perspective on the timeline for the Phoenix Coyotes' recovery from their own blindside head-shot that Messrs. Balsillie, Rodier and Moyes inflicted on them over the summer.

The Coyotes certainly were suffering before the events of May 2009 - more than half a decade of major suckage on the ice and, frankly, excessive mismanagement off of it were taking its toll on the business and the team. But the bankruptcy brought the team to the brink. A hot start this October was an encouraging sign, but we still have a long road to recovery.

We didn't just "get our bell rung." So it's ludicrous to expect this franchise to just "shake it off."

Five for Howling is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Arizona Coyotes and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor(s) of Five for Howling

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