The Arizona Coyotes have been largely overlooked by the media, fans and sometimes even players. It’s not difficult to understand why, the team is located in the middle of Arizona, not a state one typically associates with hockey. It rarely gets below 7 degrees Celsius (45 Fahrenheit), even during the coldest winter days, which makes it difficult to sustain an ice rink.
The Coyotes also play in Glendale, not Phoenix as is commonly believed (probably because the team was called the Phoenix Coyotes until 2014). Glendale is a smaller city at just under 200,000 people, so fans in the larger Phoenix have to take a 20 minute trip from the city just to get to the arena. This might work in a larger market, with an existing fan base, but fans in Arizona clearly aren’t interested enough to make a trip to a neighbouring city just to watch some hockey.
It’s The Perfect Time to Become an Arizona Coyotes Fan
However, the Coyotes are one of the most exciting teams in hockey right now, and there has never been a better time to become a fan. The Coyotes are still bad enough that one mustn’t worry about being called a bandwagoner (like Chicago Blackhawks fans), yet good enough that they are watchable without being bored out of your mind (now turn to the New Jersey Devils).
This is a team which nobody hates, so one won’t face intense scrutiny in joining the Coyotes fan club, and for those travelling in the Glendale area, NHL tickets don’t come much cheaper. So, other than that, what are the positives to being a Coyotes fan?
If there’s one thing hockey fans go crazy for, it’s young, skilled players. The Coyotes have arguably the best group of young players in the league, headlined by the likes of Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Dylan Stome, Christian Dvorak, Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun. This is just the beginning of the deep prospect pool which also includes solid youngsters Laurent Dophin, Brandon Perlini, Louis Domingue, Nick Merkley, Anthony DeAngelo, Ryan MacInnis, Christian Fischer and Kyle Wood.
It’s safe to say that the Coyotes have done a great job stocking the shelves for the future. Teams that can consistently acquire sharp, young talent will always find a way to be good (much like the Blackhawks with Artemi Panarin this past season).
Any reader who has supported virtually any Canadian team in the last 10 years or so will know just how much pain a poor management group can cause to a fan. In Arizona, the Coyotes have the youngest general manager in the history of professional sports, a refreshing leap from the usual “Old Boys Club” that remains within the majority of the league.
GM John Chayka is implementing a new style of play, with an emphasis on moving the puck forward and puck possession. It’s virtually impossible for a poor possession team to win the Stanley Cup, so whether or not one is a proponent of fancy stats, it should be universally agreed upon that it is better to have the puck more often than the other team.
The Coyotes also have former Jack Adams winner Dave Tippett under contract for the next five seasons. Tippett is highly regarded by many in the hockey community. This is a management team that a fan can feel confident won’t lead them to a decade of futility (sorry Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs fans).
Ekman-Larsson has got to be the NHL’s best secret. He is one of the top five defensemen in the NHL, signed long-term at only $5.5 million and the best part is, he’s only 25 years old. We likely haven’t even seen his best years, which is crazy considering how good he already is. I
If Ekman-Larsson played in Toronto, he’d surely have already been at least a Norris finalist by now. The definite lack of media coverage surrounding the Coyotes, combined with the fact that “OEL” is Swedish and the east coast bias is a very real thing, leads to Ekman-Larsson getting lost in the mix. There’s a reason Drew Doughty has won a Norris and Ekman-Larsson hasn’t, and it isn’t because Doughty is better.
So Many Firsts Left
One of the problems with following some of the older teams is that everything has already been done. There’s still so much the Coyotes have yet to experience. They’ve never won a Stanley Cup, or even been to the final. They’ve never had a player with a 100-point season (since moving to Arizona). Never had a player win a Hart, Art Ross, Vezina, Norris, Lady Byng, Conn Smythe or Maurice Richard trophy. They’ve never had a first overall pick, or even a second overall. This team has so much yet to accomplish and it’s going to be an exciting ride.
No Salary Cap Problems
Because the Coyotes are a budget team, they are always significantly below the salary cap. This allows them to take assets from teams in exchange for bad contracts, or for players who can no longer play due to injury. This happened with Chris Pronger and Pavel Datsyuk, two players under contract with the Coyotes who never have nor will play a game wearing the howling canine.
It also relieves fans the stress of checking General Fanager and doing mental math whenever a trade is made. Don’t worry, they are still under the cap, and didn’t even have to make any sneaky additions to make the trade work. This gives the team flexibility, a crucial element in a cap league.
Let’s face it, everyone is a Maple Leafs fan these days. Who isn’t sick of reading about the Leafs all day everyday? The Leafs took a few weeks longer than expected to sign a draft pick and everybody went nuts. One doesn’t see many Coyotes fans online, and frankly the ones that are found aren’t usually the typical obnoxious fans of most Canadian teams. They are simply happy to be there and finally included in the conversation. To be one of a kind in the NHL is to be a fan of the Coyotes.
The future is bright for the Coyotes and there’s never been a better time to join the fandom. With the World Cup coming up in September, spectators will get a chance to check out Ekman-Larsson wearing the blue and yellow of Sweden (as well as Martin Hanzal and Zbynek Michalek with the Czechs and Tobias Rieder on Team Europe).
Anyone who appreciates acknowledged talent will love what Ekman-Larsson, the management group, the core of young players and the rest of the Coyotes have to offer, and it won’t be long before this team is frightening others in the Western Conference.