So here we are, just a few days from the first play-off game. Still no definitive answer on whether or not the Yotes will be staying in town long-term, or moving to parts unknown (but easily guessed). The NHL powers that be insist that we’re staying put, and the head honchos at the Coyotes say the same thing. And yet the taunts and the chirps continue from our neighbors up north. Now I’m sure that many Canadians are perfectly nice people (of course they are, lots of them play on our team – they’re not all Czech!), but the constant stupidity that comes from some of them is just offensive and ridiculous. And it really doesn’t matter what the facts are, they are going to just make stuff up. Why? Who knows. Maybe they’re just mad that it’s a team playing in the desert, where it doesn’t belong, that is going to the play-offs. Or maybe it’s because they just don’t have anything else to do, so they enjoy trolling Coyotes fans because it’s more exciting than playing COD for a few more hours.
I’ve realized that it really doesn’t matter what the team or the fans do or don’t do – there will still be idiots who poke at us with tweets and taunts as if they could actually affect the outcome of the situation in 140 characters or less. Kind of like “like this post a zillion times and Gary Bettman will give you a hockey team!” posts on Facebook. Do they think Bettman or any potential owner is following the #coyotes hashtag, waiting to be convinced whether or not the team should stay or go? Probably they aren’t, and the decision they make isn’t going to be dependent upon any of the silly arguments I’ve heard. How do these arguments go? Let’s examine a few:
“The Coyotes website has a hockey 101 section! Ha ha, you’d never see that on a Canadian team’s website!”
So? I would bet you that babies in Canada aren’t born already knowing how to play hockey. They had to learn at some point. It doesn’t make Canadians better than us that the Coyotes are providing information for new hockey fans. If hockey is such a great sport, why on earth should it be a secret club, only available to the few who have the birthright? There are many people in Phoenix who are potential hockey fans – some who have never seen a game. Does it really matter whether or not they know all of the rules and history? I doubt it. I myself am one of those people. I had a vague idea of how hockey was played, but didn’t know all of the rules. The hockey 101 section helped me. You have to start someplace, and the Coyotes website is a pretty good place to start. And guess what…when I contacted the sales rep for my season tickets, he didn’t give me a quiz or test to see if I was worthy of watching the games. There wasn’t a secret handshake. Nope, I gave him my credit card number and he gave me my tickets. I guess the money of a hockey ignoramus is just as green and spends just as well as that of a hockey fan from birth.
There aren’t any Coyotes fans, nobody goes to the games!
And yet…there were sell-outs throughout the season. Sure, some of the tickets were bought by fans of the other team. But isn’t that true of EVERY sporting event? I’ve attended games by the Suns, Diamondbacks, Cardinals…and there were always fans for the other team there. And on the recent Wild vs. Coyotes game, I saw lots of Coyotes fans in the stand. Does that mean the Wild has no fans? Nope, it just means that some of the Coyotes fans chose to spend the money to come to a game that was 1000 miles from home. That sounds like a fan to me.
Wow, you’re excited because a few people showed up at the airport to great the team? Well, look at how many fans from _______ showed up to _______!
Yes, we’re excited. We’re very excited, because our team had just won the Division championship, and our team is going into the playoffs. I’m sure it was great at your event too, with thousands of people showing up at some planned outing. But tell me…was your planned outing at midnight? On Easter? And was it set up on a moment’s notice, within the hours after the final game? If you’re trying to compare a daytime planned rally against a midnight meet-up on a holiday, well…those are apples and oranges. In no way was that airport event representative of ALL Coyotes fans – many people weren’t able to come, but would have loved to be there. I would’ve loved it, but living in a suburb that is 45 minutes from the airport, I knew that I’d never make it in time since I was at a church event until past 11pm.
Yeah, the game sold out…but the stands are full of apathetic, ignorant fans.
What makes a ‘fan’ – is there a test? A feat of strength or a quest that must be fulfilled? Or is a person who buys a ticket, watches the game, and roots for the team a fan? See above under hockey 101 – the ticket bought by the fan who knows every player and follows the team closely costs just as much as the ticket for the guy who just wants to go to a game and get drunk, or hang out. Sure, it’s great to have fans who are really into it – but not everyone is going to view a sport the same way. For some people, it’s a way of life. They live, breathe, sleep, dream of their team. For others, they just go to the games. Either way, it’s a butt in the seat. So don’t first get on the team for having nobody at the games but then when people DO go to the games decide that it’s not good enough. And the fans in Phoenix are anything but apathetic. This season alone I’ve seen some amazing fan reactions. Just a few off the top of my head:
- Shane Doan gets his hat trick…finally. I’ve never seen a crowd pulling for something, or so joyful when it happened. There were many tears of joy shed in that arena, and just seeing the huge grin on Doan’s face makes me teary-eyed all over again.
- Game vs. LA Kings – the comeback was amazing. The chants were loud – BEAT LA! BEAT LA! And they were continuous for quite a bit of the 3rd period. Nope, obviously the fans were apathetic.
- Smith’s amazing shut-out(s) and save(s): The most recent ones, where the crowd was shouting SMITTY! SMITTY! Not only do we recognize great goaltending when we see it, we also know the name of the guy who is amazing. And guess what? We also know the name of the other team’s goalie, because whenever he lets in one of our goals, we shout “He shoots…he scores…HEY (goalie name)…you suck!” Nope, no polite golf claps from us.
- Patrick Lauder’s national anthem – in the game against the Ducks, the microphone batteries were dead. Patrick started to sing…and it was audible, but only barely. No matter, the fans had his back. 16,000 people strong, everyone joined in. It was loud, it was heartfelt, and it was a pack effort. I had goosebumps, and I still get them when I think about them.
You know what all of these things have in common? They are all about the fans. Why the focus on the fans? Well, the team has been doing some amazing things. They were written off when Bryzgalov left, they were written off when they started the season ownerless, they were as good as gone to Winnipeg or Quebec after the last season. But you can’t pick on the team for anything, not when they’ve played as they have. You can’t say our goalie sucks, because he doesn’t. You can’t say our team sucks, because chances are they’ve beat your team at least once. You can’t say our coach is horrible, because his system has put this team on the top of their division – something that never happened before, even with “better quality fans” filling the house. THIS team plays hard, THIS team gives 100%, THIS team is amazing.
So if you can’t pick on the team, you go for the fans. But don’t forget – this is a pack effort. Shane Doan made it clear at the beginning of the season, we are one pack. The team AND the fans. There may not be as many Coyotes fans as there are fans of the Rangers, the Bruins, the Jets. But there ARE fans in Phoenix and we are pulling for our team. We support them 100% and we will be there on Thursday for the first game of the play-offs. We won’t be quiet, we’re not ignorant, and we aren’t apathetic. We are part of the pack and we have faith in our team, no matter what the future holds for them. They have risen above all of the petty jabs and relocation rumors, and we will do the same. Shane Doan is OUR captain too, and if he can put aside the rumors and stupidity in order to play hockey the hard way, we can do the same as fans to cheer them on. We’ll never be good enough to some people, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we are one pack, with one goal, and we’re ignoring all of the stupid stuff that gets in the way of that goal because the goal is more important than what some troll somewhere may think of us.
See you on Thursday! HOWLLLLLLLLL!!!!
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