Before you jump down my throat for the title, understand a couple things. I am an avid hockey fan, transplanted to Phoenix from San Jose. I am a professional skating/hockey instructor, with over 26 years of experience. And while I may be a diehard Sharks fan, I've adopted the Coyotes as an underdog team to root for while I'm living in this voracious hellhole ( is that one word?). The thing is, I'm sick of trying to turn people on to hockey down here. Everywhere I look, whether watching NHL Live or perusing one of the gajillions of hockey blogs, all I see is verbal decimation of the Coyotes, it's fans, and it's ownership. And while I've sat back and respectfully watched everyone's opinions, I can take no more. They say if you really want to understand someone, walk a mile in his shoes. Well, here's my size 11 Adidas. Let's go for a stroll, shall we?
Firstly, there are the fans. In general, going to sporting events in Phoenix is a strange experience. For any sport, whether it be baseball, football, basketball, or hockey..... The fans out here have no idea that cheering and 'getting rowdy' is actually quite acceptable at sporting events. When I first moved out here, I went to an Arizona Diamondbacks game, only to realize I was watching baseball in a f*^king library. Cheering for the team was (at best) a smattering of golf claps, and raising your voice in the stands only brought the ire of a few thousand eye daggers.
The same can be applied with the Coyotes. Wherein any other team celebrates their heritage, and shows their appreciation for their star players, Coyotes fans are the equivalent of the proverbial "deer-in-headlights". An example, you ask? Why sure, I've got a few. Shane Doan, team captain and lifelong Jet/Coyote, had a ceremony to commemorate his 1000th game a few nights back. And while any other arena would have blown it's roof off with a 'DOA-NER" chant, all he got was the hoity-toity golf clap that haunts my ears at every f*!king game I attend. And leave it up to Coyotes marketing to use this occasion to try and hock more tickets, using announcer Dave Strader ( and Doan himself. wtf) to almost beg people to attend more games. Doan shouldn't have to do that, during HIS ceremony. I have season tickets ( someone has to buy them, right?), and night in and night out I am subjected to this.
( " I'd clap, but I don't want to chip my brandy snifter on this ghassssSSStly plastic cup holder ." )
Sure, it sounds like I am calling the fans of Phoenix gutless wimps, collectively. Maybe they are. Sure, there's a small contingency of people like myself, but for those on the fence about hockey, the Coyotes organization and local media have done absolutley zilch when it comes to promoting the product. Just the other night I was watching highlights on a local news channel, where the sports anchors have a noticeable fear of hockey highlights. When all he had to say was ' Bryzgalov with a save', we get ' Aaaaand Russian netminder # 30 with a great stop". They don't even take the time to learn the players names? You don't have to tell me what a joke it is. I already know. Local sports Anchors wouldn't know the Stanley Cup if it sat on their face and wiggled.
But what about the NHL? Surely they would do or say something to help the fish-out-of-water attitude the has slowly poisoned the minds of potential 'Yotes fans, right? Dead wrong again, Bucko. While watching NHL Live a few weeks ago, host Deb Placey blew the 'Yotes out of the water. While I can't quote her exactly, she said something to the effect of 'she either lived or spent time in Scottsdale, and that the fans didn't want to trek out to Glendale after moving the arena further away from Scottsdale'. Yes, Mrs. Placey. a 20 minute traverse from where the previous arena was is pure f%$king torture. Look, I grew up going to San Jose Sharks games, and people would drive from as far off places as Fresno, Sacramento, even Reno. Reno is a good 3+ hours to San Jose, through the Sierra Nevada, in winter. But behold, these people loved their hockey enough to show up, with not only zero complaints, but a rowdy smile and boisterous cheering sections to boot. If driving around the damn loop from Scottsdale is so damn painstaking, then you know what? F*%k 'em. Keep your upturned noses, your golf claps, and your elite status at home. And if the Coyotes leave, at least I won't have to worry about listening to Deb Placey ever again. I'd rather have half an arena full of rowdy a-holes screaming their nuts off than having to learn how to wear a monacle and a handlebar moustache, anyways. A hockey arena is supposed to smell like burning flesh of dead animal carcasses, not cinnamon nuts and vegan pastry dishes. You go to a hockey game smelling blood of that night's opponent, not rainbows and super-mario-pink-bunny-marshmallow-unicorn-hearts.
(GO YOTES? WOOO? Wait, wtf?)
Yet with all this bitching and moaning, you can't blame it ALL on the fans and the media. The Coyotes have been force-feeding this watered-down poison and calling it "hockey" for quite a few years now. Remember all the players they had initially, after moving from Winnipeg? Roenick, Khabibulin, Tkachuk, Numminen? You may have hated their jerseys, but you couldn't deny that they were a playoff threat back then. The on-ice product spoke for itself, so marketing didn't need to say too much in order to keep the arenas from nearly selling out consistently. But once the "Wayne Gretzky : Coach" era started, all that was about to change. Corners were cut, Wayne couldn't coach his way out of a wet paper bag, players' salaries were dumped for the two words Phoenix Coyotes fans have come to know as the infamous '" Two Words of Death". These words will make any Coyotes diehard's eyes roll like a slot machine: "Youth Movement". Whenever empassioned Coyote fans would voice their displeasure with Wayne or the team, these words were the excuse used to pacify fans, as obviously fans in Phoenix were idiots and couldn't second-guess the greatest player of all time. Problem is, after years of this excuse, it grew extremely stale. Fans felt jipped, and rightfully so. The 'Yotes organization treats it's fans as if they are idiots, and until that changes, don't be surprised if fans stay away from the turnstiles.
( "Okay, guys. You go skate around in circles. Completing passes really isn't important, as long as you cover my ass while I go bail Tocchet and my wife out of jail ." )
"Surely it can't be THAT bad ", you say. No? Let me run down some of the lackluster bullsh&rt that Coyotes fans have been subjected to, in easy little bullet points.
- For a time, the 'Yotes employed a local radio DJ ( whose name thankfully eludes me) to come down the stairs between whistles and hype the crowd up, encourage them to 'howl', and be generally annoying. A nice tactic, if the guy didn't sound like you were listening to the Wacky-Wild-Inflatable-Tubeman salesman. And he didn't come down EVERY DAMN WHISTLE.
- Commercials with Pierre: an idiotic, racist stereotype of French-Canadians that had less to do with hockey and more with selling stupid buttons at games that said 'Pierre in '08": To whom this was supposed to appeal to, is beyond me.
- The 'special' New Years Eve jersey auction. Shitty practice jerseys, with champagne colored logos and disco ball numbers that were never worn by the players, neither in warmups or in practice. I chortled as I passed the auction table the other day, as someone had bid over 600 bucks on a practice jersey that hadn't been practiced in.
( Ironically, no amount of booze will make this more enjoyable.)
- The Pack Dancers : in theory, probably one of their better ideas. That is, until you realize that if you're going to make sexy ASU undergrads dance like strippers, doing it at Center Ice in tennis shoes is only asking for broken bones. If anything, that experiment was either comically sad, or tragically scary. Needless to say, we don't have the walking wouded eye candy anymore.
( "OMG! I'm gonna like... Be like... an actress!....And like,stuff! Why is Jenny like, bleeding back there? That is like, SOOOO 1997." )
These are just the glaring examples, off the top of my head.
So as we stand, after being in the playoff hunt for the first half of the season, the Coyotes traded away fan favorites for more grit, something the fans ( who were still left) hadn't seen in some time. Still, rebuilding was inevitable, as Wayne-o had zero idea what to do with what he picked up, anyways. And as the season ended, the horror of the season was only magnified tenfold due to the "Bombardment of Ballsillie". Daily, agonizing articles were written about the terrible fanbase in Phoenix. To prove how supposedly dumb hockey fans were in Phoenix, one of Ballsillie's lawyers told someone in an open hearing that he looked like Guy LaFleur, then asked the man if he knew who Guy LaFleur was. The problem with this is that he asked Jerry Moyes, the same guy who was trying to dump the Coyotes off on Ballsillie. As lame as that is, it's status quo for Jim Silly Balls. He will forever be picking at the lowest hanging fruit on the NHL tree, striking fear into fans around the nation. Have fun with Atlanta, Tampa, and the Islanders in the summer, do*$hebag.
And where does that leave us, the people of Phoenix? I've searched for blogs that keep tabs on the 'Yotes, and have found some interesting things. For all things 'Yotes, I usually check www.fiveforhowling , or www.coyotescorner.net for most of my Coyotes info. I've found a couple of blogs from groupie-like women, who basically use shitty MS Paint skills (a la Perez Hilton) to draw hearts around Peter Mueller's crotch and talk about how they want certain 'Yotes to high-stick their fat sausage-wallets. I almost thought that this "psycho lady hockey" site was going to be a helpful sign of encouragement. Sure, she lives in Toronto. But a good looking babe who knows her hockey, and roots for Phoenix? It seemd like that maybe the 'Yotes community had another catalyst to help showcase how fun hockey can be, maybe even teach some women about the joys of hockey. Low and behold, she decided to basically put the 'Yotes on blast. As it turns out, the only reason she rooted for the 'Yotes was because she was just hooking up with Scottie Upshall. The sad part about all the aforementioned sites are THESE ARE THE PLACES to get your Coyotes news. Hell, the newspaper down here usually relegates hockey to a small corner on page 12 of the sports section. I'll stick with OdinMercer at Five for Howling, as he seems to be the only Coyotes fan that hasn't seemed to have lost their f*%king mind.
To the Coyote diehards, I apologize to you. I acknowledge that there is a still a bunch of people down here that love hockey, and love the 'Yotes. You deserve better.
To the Phoenix Coyotes - Stop treating your fans like retards, and show a little respect. You've already got your foot in the door by putting this team together, and (*gasp*) attendance is back up. I know it's an uphill battle, but I think it's time you acknowledge that the fans feel burned from the Gretzky debacle. In the words of Rick Tocchet.................. "I'd bet on it".
To the fairweather fans of Phoenix ( most of you know you are) : The Coyotes have slashed ticket prices, and are going to make the playoffs for the first time in years. The team is the complete opposite of what it has been. It's the best it's been in years. Our goaltending is phenomenal. We have a coach that knows what the Hell he's doing. We have team chemistry. Now what we need is a voice. I am just one bitter asshole on a blog. Imagine what fun we could have if their were 18,000 assholes cheering our brains out. Have that extra beer. Have some burning animal flesh. Scream a little bit more. Hug the stranger next to you and jump around when someone scores. It's okay, I promise. And get this: It's fun. You might even like it. But whatever you do, bring some balls. And if you don't have any, grow some.
( OdinMercer shows off his new Coyotes socks)
And to all of you people who have jumped ship: I hoped you tied anchors around your ankles. Just don't hop on the bandwagon once Phoenix in the playoffs. I only want to see real fans. I know I'll be there. Just don't look for me around those god d#$%ned cinnamon nuts.