Coyotes Improving; Fans Indifferent
January 3, 2009 by Big Tony
Perhaps it is Wayne Gretzky working his magic or maybe they are finally molding into a decent team by the Phoenix Coyotes are in 6th position in the Western Conference and in prime position to make a push toward the playoffs. Since finishing sixth in the 2001-2002 season the Phoenix Coyotes have had very little success and have frankly been down-right abysmal. But, at least for now, the Coyotes are a viable franchise that are unlikely to make any noise in the playoffs if they do qualify but some progress is better than no progress after all. For the most part the Coyotes’ roster consists of mediocre players at best with a goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov who is putting up pretty good numbers with a sub-three GAA and a respectable .911 save percentage. In the midst of the mediocrity there is a shining light who has been more or less unnoticed in the death pit of a sports market that is the great Phoenix (more on that later) and that is right-winger Shane Doan. Doan leads the team with 38 points (18 G, 20 A) with the next closets teammate at 28 points. He also leads all forwards on the team with an average ice time of 20:38 and is 4th behind only defensemen who traditionally have the highest average ice time. He is a work horse who can not only score goals but set up teammates regularly as he leads the team in both goals and assists. Overall there is not much going for this franchise (and hasn’t been since they moved from Winnipeg in the ‘90s) but for all the fans in that area who can get a chance to see Doan play they are witnessing something special—at least for this year.
Unfortunately for the city of Phoenix and the NHL the Coyotes are reportedly expected to lose 30 million dollars this year and are struggling to draw attention in a city that is not just a weak hockey market but a terrible sports market. The Arizona Cardinals are to host a home playoff game Saturday for the first time in Arizona and for the first time since the franchise was in Chicago in 1947. And yet despite that the Cardinals needed two extension by the NFL to sell-out the game so there would not be a local blackout in affect. The area does not even support America’s most popular sport when its team is in the playoffs let alone a sport that continues to struggle in some areas like hockey. The 30 million dollar loss may have something to do with the team’s futility over the years but not entirely. Sports fans in that region seem to be few and far between and if they are not going to support a team in Phoenix there are plenty of other cities who would. The Phoenix hockey experiment has basically failed and there is no reason to reward that city with a hockey team (or any other major sports team for that matter) anymore.