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Pre-Season NHL Stuff

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Thoughts from my first Phoenix Coyotes pre-season game:

(1)  Matt Greene, now of the LA Kings, played for the U of North Dakota when I was in college.  I always thought he was a bit of a liability for them (based on his big, lumbering nature), but UND was one of a few teams that had an NHL (as opposed to olympic) sized rink in college, so he made it work.

Plus, if he hit you, it hurt really, really bad.  He was unaware of the battle going on between him and my roommate Charlie Kronsch.  The battle was that Matt frequently gave Charlie stitches in the chin (wearing the full cage in college makes for a lot of chin stiches), and Charlie wanted to return the favour.  But every year for poor Chuck, here’s your new zips, courtesy Greener.  Final score, Greene, 17, Kronschnabel, 0.  Oh, and by the way Char, Greene is in the NHL now.  18-0.

(2) When the puck first drops to start the game (especially during camp, pre-season, and weekend games), its understood that the pace is freaking intense – like, max effort, until that first whistle.  “Set the tone” stuff, ya know?  It has to settle down from there.  It was nearly ten minutes before the Yotes game saw a whistle, and I got a big kick out of guys trying to keep the pace up on their second, and third shifts.

(3) Was Balsillie there?  No, seriously, was he?  I couldn’t help but think he had to be watching from somewhere, if he’s such a big fan of hockey that he wants to own the team…

(4) They asked the fans “Shane Doan Trivia”, which I found hilarious, because…. what are their options?  Coyote history trivia would just end in “Doan” anyway, so you might as well narrow it down a bit, right?  Nice move.

(5) I feel really bad for writing an article about the Coyotes sucking after having been to a game.  The article I wrote, sadly, was accurate – just seeing the fans that do support them and hearing the interviews with the guys made me feel a bit guilty.  Sorry, guys.

No Waaay?

No Waaay?

Way!

Way!

(6) The highlight of the night was a Shane Doan jumbotron commercial for a bank, where a fan is taking money from the ATM, and Shane misunderstands the meaning of “free checking” and hits the guy from behind.  He has a line at the end of the commercial, and that’s when it hit me.  Shane freaking Doan is Keanu Reeves.  Right?  I mean, isn’t he?  The hair… the tone… it was all just so obvious this whole time.  I cannot believe I missed this prior to now.

(7) The rink setting in Phoenix is amazing.  One of the best I’ve ever seen.  Not only is the rink nice, new and ideal for watching a game, but everywhere outside it is just so great.  Fountains with half-Bellagio water shows, a Jimmy Buffet margaritaville, restaurants and bars, Irish pubs and shopping, it’s just too perfect.  If they do manage to survive, I’d go just to linger outside under the misters and drink a few pints in front of the outdoor TV’s.  Heaven forbid this team starts winning, they might just get popular.

(8) They charge more for Pittsburgh and Detroit games.  Just thought I’d pass that along.

(9) They still charge $8.25 for a beer.  Isn’t that unbelievable that they can do that?  A draught beer costs a restaurant something like 37 cents.  Movie theater owners would hear that mark-up and call it preposterous.  I’d have boycotted if it wasn’t a Coyote’s pre-season game, which are the most drink-inducing words you can string together on this side of “bachelor party”.

(10) I’m still a big fan of the sleek RBK jerseys (though not the Coyotes colors/logo).  Nice evolution to the look of a hockey player.

(11) Just how dumb is wearing no visor nowadays?  I don’t even feel the need to make my case beyond that sentence.

"The look"

"The look"

(12) There are few things as satisfying as skating behind a d-man into a nicely chipped puck with a ton of speed already going.

(13) The t-shirt shoot: I think they shot 900 t-shirts to the 450 fans, (both ballpark figures).

(14) Bryzgalov just looks like an NHL goalie.  They have that structure and size you don’t see from the amateurs.  He also has the tendency to get beat five-hole like NHL goalies, a phenomenon that never ceases to boggle me.  For some reason, I think 40% of goals in the NHL are scored five-hole.  It’s absurd.

And that was game one, pre-season.  I’m looking forward to going to more games and having my “to write about” list grow.  I think I need to write about the momentum of skating, and what a bitch having to actually stop is.  Not that I chose to stop all that much, but still, I hated it when I had to.

Comments

10 Responses to “Pre-Season NHL Stuff”
  1. Neil says:

    It’s too bad about that Phoenix situation, it’s hard to accuse a city of failing to support their team when the team hasn’t even made the playoffs and the owners want blank checks to cover losses (like every other NHL team): I don’t think basketball would have worked In Vancouver anyways but giving us the Grizzlies and drafting some monster from the south with bad knees wasn’t exactly the best strategy. As much as I love Gretz, Doan, NHL hockey, the young Coyote stars, etc., you can’t expect people with no interest in hockey to develop one until a decent bandwagon starts around a playoff run…. (Tampa, Carolina, Colorado, Dallas….). Although Florida did exactly that and from what I understand, their attendance figures aren’t stellar.

    I know you have some conflicts of interest to keep an eye on but I would love to hear your thoughts on how the people you’ve seen feel (or don’t feel) about hockey and having a team?

  2. jtbourne says:

    Interestingly, you actually summarized the article I sold to the Republic (major paper here) to be released in their NHL preview page. In a sentence, I said “the fans can’t be faulted cause the team has never won.”

    From what I’ve heard down here about the Yotes situation the stance ranges between “Yeah, it’s a shame”, “they used to be popular” and “they’re still here?”.

  3. Officer Koharski says:

    I hope the Yotes stay out there. I think the lack of fan support is really exaggerated when you consider the team. I mean look at any lousy team, they all struggle with attendance. Florida, and our beloved Isles are good examples. Phoenix had decent crowds a few years ago and Florida had legitimate playoff atmosphere back in the day, with Bure and throwing rats on the ice, etc. And we all know that people turn out when the Isles are getting it done out there. The fact is, if the team is winning, fans will come, be it in Ontario or Belize.

    Balsillie is a total vulture with zero respect for the game. He wants a pet team and I feel personally insulted about his complete lack of tact regarding hockey fans in Phoenix, it’s unfair how he can just swoop in with an unmatchable offer and be so blatant about taking the team away. I was really proud when the local businesses in Nashville came together and saved the team, I hope they can get something organized out there along the same line. Just keep that creep away from the NHL.

  4. jtbourne says:

    Good point, it really is offensive to actual hockey fans. I wish the article I wrote on the Yotes was out already – basically, the attendance here was good at first. Novelty, and decent teams helped. Past then, I can’t think of a less-intriguing team in the NHL. Again, I agree – they simply need to win.

  5. Officer Koharski says:

    Well they’re certainly on the right track, right? Turris, Boedker, Mueller, all have top line potential. Upshall I always thought had sick ability and Tikhonov looks like he’ll be a good player. Aside from our new shiny centerpiece, I would say they have as good or better building blocks than the Isles, and people are talking about NYI as being on the up and up. I haven’t really heard that optimism about Phoenix though and I don’t know why. Sick young forwards and some greybeard leaders in Doan and Jovocop. Bryz is a solid #1. Color me intrigued.

  6. jtbourne says:

    And colour them (and the Isles) out of playoffs again. Great young potential is fine when you have fans willing to be a part of developmental phase. The Coyotes face of the franchise is Shane Doan. That would depress me if I were a fan of the team. In all these years, we can’t get one “wow” guy? Can we get a Havlat so at least I can enjoy a few minutes out of every loss? Why can’t we get Kessel? We’re barely at the salary floor! The Coyotes will be fun to watch sometimes this year with their great young potential. Unfortunately, they may be just about ready to be good by the time they get to another city. They need to win now!

  7. Officer Koharski says:

    That is a good point, they’re in a Catch 22 where they can’t be realistic and showcase the future without looking like they have given up on the present. They should maybe trade one of those young guys for a star, just to generate some excitement because they no longer have the time and space to build it up slowly. It may not be the wisest for the long term but you’re right, they need to win to save the team.

    I always thought in situations like these, why don’t they have a “Hockey Week in Phoenix” or something to that effect, where they drop ticket prices to something like 5 or 8 bucks each, lower the concessions, and just try and pack the building for a few days. I realize that’s a ton of money to lose but if it’s looking as dire as it is, why not go for the hail mary and try and recruit lots of people in one big showing. Bring everyone out of the woodwork, see games for next to nothing and that experience will stay with them. Let the people know that they have the privilege of seeing pro hockey in their backyard where some people are left wanting.

    Anyway, off to work, I look forward to seeing the article. Good job on selling some stuff man, keep that paper coming in.

  8. Maria says:

    as a boston fan i am ashamed to say this buut the coyotes should try and get kessel but itll never happen…i mean if he doenst even want to be in boston what is the hope for being in phoenix? is there an type of “hockey culture” in that area…like youth programs, etc? thats a way to develop young fans riight? i wiish everyone would just love hockey! I am currently living in Minnesota and everyone here loves hockey! its a wicked cool feeling to know that!!

  9. Neil says:

    I guess there are actually a lot of teams/franchises/companies in that position: you don’t get points for putting a company together and selling paper, you get points for doing it properly to the benefit of those involved. If the Coyotes can’t win games, draft superstars, or make the playoffs, isn’t it natural to have empty seats and vultures looking to pick up the remains? Many Canadian teams, including the legendary Vancouver Canucks, have gone through periods where fan support drops due to prolonged suckery. Some teams have even gone through significant financial difficulty while they were winning (Sens weren’t getting paychecks when they were first in the East because management didn’t have the cash!?!) And Quebec City and Winnipeg didnt have the cash/fans either. Apparently, supporting an NHL team is an expensive thing whether the fans are there or not (there’s a good book called On Thin Ice by Jim Silver or Sliver or something like that about the Jets leaving town).

  10. zyllyx says:

    @maria: There is a hockey culture but it’s still in its infancy. Let’s put it this way – Dave Spina of the San Antonio Rampage is the first Arizona native to ever have a shot at making an NHL roster. Much like Jobing.com Arena was built out of a cotton field (I went to the first game there and let me tell you, a building that big alone in a giant dusty field with nothing around it for miles is very depressing), the NHL put the team into an area whose history of hockey was the Phoenix Roadrunners and almost nothing else. It was the wrong move, IMO, but you take what you can get, and a decade down the line we finally have rinks going, we have one of the better development programs in the nation with PF Chang’s, we have youth hockey whose teams are starting to win championships, and the local colleges and high schools have finally added school hockey teams so that NAU is no longer the only scholastic hockey program in the state.

    There’s still a long way to go – why the NHL hasn’t figured out that building a branded roller hockey program in Sunbelt states would be huge for grassroots hockey in warmer climes is beyond me – but there has been some definite progress made. Which is why I desperately hope that, if the NHL franchise leaves Phoenix this year or next, the NHL will not forget Phoenix as a potential market.

    Living in Phoenix for as long as I have (I moved here as a kid after having seen my first hockey game in Indianapolis, when Gretzky was with the Racers), I know it’s tough to compete with the other pro sports. We have so many pro sports in the metro area that perennial losers do not get the latitude they get in cities where there isn’t so much competing for the fan dollar. But I want hockey to succeed because for me (even as a relatively “new” hockey fan) it’s the best pro sport around without question. I’m tired of prima donna basketball thugs getting famous for putting a ball in a bucket, of fat, lollygagging baseball players getting paid twice the money a hockey player does to stand around in a field for five hours, and of self-important football players who can only play in 5-10 second spurts before having to do some sort of dance or mugging for the camera.

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