With Coyotes deal struck, it’s now up to fans
I’ll admit, I haven’t been a very good Coyotes fan. And that’s even using the term “fan” loosely.
You see, I grew up in this city. I watched the Coyotes play in America West Arena. I remember the Whiteout days and the excitement they used to bring to this city, even when it has always been evident that no matter how bad the Suns are, they’ll always reign supreme in this town. I used to really enjoy hockey.
But somewhere around the move to Glendale, the new logos, and the re-branding I lost interest in hockey. While I’ll stop short of blaming it solely on that move and the awful location of Jobing.com Arena, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that plays a part. I work sometimes 55+ hours a week and usually wake up around 4:45 every morning. Couple that with living on the far east side of town, and a hockey game in Glendale just hasn’t been high on my priority list. And that’s partially my own fault.
I know I’m not alone either. What I do know, however, is that with all the fervor surrounding Tuesday night’s vote to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, fans like myself hold a very important key in keeping them here well beyond 2018, when the new ownership’s out clause can be exercised.
You see, the City of Glendale did their job. The Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE) group did their job. The league did their job. And now it’s our turn to do our job.
The Coyotes are not the top dog in this city and I’m sure everyone in the organization knows that. Everybody would agree they rank behind the three major professional teams here, and some would also argue behind ASU athletics as well. But that’s not necessarily a horrible thing. The team has its spot in the Arizona sports landscape, and contrary to outside popular belief, that spot can be and has been a very strong place.
As fans, we have to make a concerted effort to go watch more hockey. Hockey is a great sport, and anyone who has seen it in person can attest to that. While it will never be my favorite sport, I have the utmost respect for the players and coaches who endure the grueling season with the kind of toughness they do. It’s admirable, and good hockey is a lot of fun to watch and be a part of.
The fans have already done so much in this saga, representing the team so strongly at every city function regarding the its future. But we can’t stop there. There’s a real shot this team can really, truly succeed now more than ever because a stable ownership group (or so it seems) has now taken over.
Suns fans have dealt with poor ownership making their fair share of mistakes in the last decade. Cardinals fans went through well over a decade of poor ownership. The Coyotes are not in either of these boats now.
Yesterday prior to the vote, RSE did two major things. They secured the partnership of a heavy-hitter in the facility management industry, and they guaranteed the city they’d recoup their losses if they ended up not working out. Those two acts alone should tell you this group is serious about hockey and they’re serious about keeping it in the desert.
The real question now is, are fans serious about their passion? I tend to think so. Last night was a victory for this city, this state, and the idea of hockey in the Sun Belt. While we should celebrate it accordingly, let’s not lose sight of the fact that just as the fan support helped stop the team from relocating, that same fan support is the only thing that can now keep the team here forever.
We know that’s capable because the Suns, despite their tough times, still draw the support of even the most casual fans in the Valley. Even though most of their fans have been upset with the direction of the franchise, it’s for the most part a very unconditional love for that franchise in particular. When fans were upset, their opinion was so important to the organization, it forced management’s hand in several personnel moves.
The Coyotes needed their fans to be mad before. Mad at the city. To be relentless in their support of keeping the team. Now they just need them to do their job: be fans.