Inspired by tales of 'How I Became a Coyote fan' I thought I would share my own journey!
When you say your from Manchester, the inevitable first question is always: United or City? It always felt good to reply: Neither, im a hockey fan! From birth I was taken to the local hockey rink, which was a converted World War 2 hangar from Ringway Airport actually. I learnt to skate, to play hockey and to support hockey in that barn! During those years I never nailed my colours to a particular NHL team mast until one special summer.
During the summer of 1996 that would all change for me. I can remember the moment I became a Coyote fan very clearly even to this day. I was in the local town of Wilmslow, sat in an internet cafe (remember when they were a thing!) setting up my very first email address. While thinking about what to choose, I was looking at the NHL website and reading about the Phoenix Coyotes and how they had moved from Winnipeg that summer. In an instant the image of Ice Hockey in the desert burned itself onto my mind. How weird and cool is that? Ice in the desert? So I read up on the team, saw the amazingly cool Kachina logo and thought, this is my team, I want to support the Coyotes. That afternoon, under gloomy stormy skies in Wilmslow, I became a Coyote fan and chose coyotes_uk as my email address. Which is still my main email account to this day!
Ever since then, I have had to put up with the unfriendly UK faceoff times for Coyote games, other UK Hockey fans asking, the Coyotes? Really? Why? All the while dreaming of the day I would finally make it to Phoenix to take in a game. I very quickly bought a jersey and would proudly wear the Kachina around rinks in the UK. With the advent of NHL Gamecentre and Premier Sports (TV Channel in the UK) seeing Coyote games became a little easier. I remember the Conference Final run we had with pride, always the underdog, here we were a breath from the Stanley Cup final. I never cared that we were never regular cup contenders, I did care about the hate that seemingly never ends from north of the border. Even 5,000 miles away it would frustrate me how many fans seemed to think Arizona did not deserve a hockey team! If anything this made me a more hardened Coyote fan!
Supporting your team from the other side of the pond is hard, when that team is based in the Western Conference, it becomes even harder! So, you can imagine my delight when, the airline I work for announced non-stop flights from Manchester to Houston. Immediately I was thinking, Texas isn't far from Arizona right? After scouring the schedule, a weeks trip was put together and, at the end of January my wife and I flew to Phoenix (via Houston) to finally attend a Coyote game for the first time in 20 years of supporting the team.
Much like that day in the summer of 1996 which is etched on my memory, seeing that first game (vs the Kings) is now forever imprinted on my memory. The day turned out to be a rollercoaster of emotions too. My wife and I arrived at Gila River Arena and, while waiting outside, we received news that, the team we supported here in the UK, the Manchester Phoenix, had run out of money and had been forced to close. In the shadow of GRA, under bright blue Arizona skies, about to see my NHL team for the first time live in 20 years, I cried! I was across the pond from my friends and family as our club died.
It was not long after that, with time to calm down and look ahead to the Coyote game that, we met Sarah Howling, along with her friends and Coyote ST holders Tina & Larry. It was a real pleasure to meet someone in the flesh, who I had been speaking to online for so long. She was able to lift our spirits before we went inside, seeing the inside of GRA and those sedona red seats was incredible. Then seeing the players just the other side of the glass was amazing. My 20 year pilgrimage was now complete! Ok so the two games we saw in AZ the Coyotes lost but, I really didn't care. This was my team, my team I had finally seen live, the team where so much promise for the future is obvious, I just know our time will come!
Keep howlin guys, keep howlin!