To clarify, as much as we'd all love to think that I only started wishing well for the Coyotes when the little pepperpot and my favorite player - Petr Prucha - was traded there last March, that is simply not the case. I'd like to reference my Western Conference Predicitons from last October, where I said:
Coyotes - The desert dogs. Hmm. I really like their chances at being one of those bottom three surprise teams to squeeze into the playoffs. They almost did it last year and I was rooting for them, trust me. I think having Ilya Bryzgalov for a full year in nets might make the difference. He is a premiere goalie when he's needed to be, and I see him really making a difference for this young team. Shane Doan quietly had a big numbers year last year. And never count out Ed Jovanovski to help on the power play. Peter Mueller had an impressive rookie campaign as well. Honestly, I think things are looking brighter in Phoenix and perhaps, bright enough to bring the maroon and white into the promised second season. Out of the could-be-there, these might be my favorites.
So, even long before Prucha started donning maroon and white, I wanted this team to succeed. And why not. What would anyone have against this team?
No one would wish what happened during the tail end of last season, this summer, and the continued ongoing struggles on anybody.
Over the summer, you don't know where you are going to be laying your head come the fall.
If you work on the organizational side, there's the very real fear that the team, your job, is not going to exist in a few months.
If you are a free-agent, do you want to stay there, do you want to go play there?
If you've been there all your career - do you know what you are going home to? Where home is even going to be?
And if you are a fan - is your team going to be there tomorrow? The team you love and root for? Or are they going to go the way of the Nordiques, the Whalers, the ....Jets?
Nope, I don't wish that on anyone, but that's exactly what the fans, players, and members of the Coyotes organization had to endure and in many ways they still very much do.
The season has started, of course, and they can focus on the statistics of on-ice performance, but the underlying problems and fear don't go away just because it's not front page league news anymore.
Try to imagine it, if you will. As a New York Rangers fan, I'll admit, it's hard. It's no secret the league doesn't like the Rangers (and no, not talking about a conspiracy here, but rather Bettman's hatred for the way the Rangers don't want to play by the lets-all-do-things-the-same-way rules).
But despite that, there's never been one moment in my entire hockey life where I didn't feel 100% certain that I'd have my favorite team around to root for - the next season, 10 seasons from now, 60 years from now.
Teams like the Rangers - baring anything totally beyond comprehension, they are here to stay. Original Six teams with rich history and fans than span generations. Traditions from decades of another lifetime. The Rangers were always here. They always, it seems, will be here.
Other fans of other teams are not so lucky. I think some people, in their ignorance or bliss, fail to realize that. They jest about the relative lack of fans in Phoenix/Glendale, but they are simply unable to put themselves in the shoes of the fans that do exist. The fans that are simply not sure what the future will bring.
I can certainly sympathize. And I know I am not alone. I can't imagine what it would be like to not have my favorite team around.
The Coyotes have been in Phoenix for 14 years. 14. That's longer than some of us may have even been fans of our own teams, I'm sure.
But that's not why we root for them. Not exactly. And again, no, it's not for #16.
It's something the players have alluded to. It's something they realize as the great truth.
They, as players, can only control one thing. How they play the game on the ice. They can control their work ethic, their attitude, their conditioning, and the way they do their job.
No, they cannot control every goal scored for or against, every win or every loss. But they can go out there and know they are all fighting for the same thing. The same goal. Winning. Playoffs. Giving the fans that do exist and that do love the team, giving them something to cheer about.
And the 2009-2010 Phoenix Coyotes are doing that in spades. Their best start since the 2000-2001 season. 6-3 on the season, and a recent 4 game winning streak - they are playing strong and playing where it counts.
A 3-0 win in Pittsburgh against the defending Stanley Cup champions got some league attention, for sure, but it's been the consistent work ethic and never-say-done attitude that has propelled the Coyotes to such an impressive start.
An attitude by a GM who said, we're not just keeping warm bodies here, we're showing everyone we have what it takes and we are playing to win.
An attitude from a new coach that has something to prove and whose style of play may just be the perfect remedy for this team.
An attitude by a goalie once heralded the best of backups who needs desperately to be the guy to stand behind a sometimes low scoring team.
An attitude of a captain who has never said a bad word, is the perfect role model for both young and old teammates, and who deserves success perhaps more than any other.
An attitude, that is shared, seemingly, by every person that dons that sweater.
For many reasons they came to Phoenix, but for one reason they are standing together.
What better story than this team proving to everyone that picked them to finish 30 of 30, to everyone that never gave them any chance to be a decent team, let alone a
good team, that they are better than most peopled wanted to give them credit for.
What better story would there be, I ask, than this team doing well. Than this team controlling the ONE thing they can control.
That's why we root for the Coyotes. I know that's why I do.