I'll admit it. Hockey is just not one of the sports I really follow.
That's not to say that I don't like it. The few times I have turned on a game, I have enjoyed it.
However, two things get in the way. One is that I don't know everything about the game like I do about baseball, basketball, and football. The other is that, as a fan, all my available sports time is all but taken. I follow the NFL, NBA, MLB, and college football.
I get into soccer (which I learned to absolutely love while living in Argentina) once the World Cup comes around every four years. Those are almost more than I can handle in my life of work, faith, and family.
Despite these things, I recognize that what the Coyotes accomplished this year was special.
In the preseason this team was not even an afterthought.
Only about 1,000 people showed up for the first preseason game. No one knew if the team was even going to be here, and truthfully, no one really cared.
This is not meant to disrespect the die hard hockey fans here in the Valley, but let's be honest, there aren't many of you. Like I said, I enjoy hockey, but I would not have shed a tear if the team had left. I would have been a little annoyed that the Valley would have an empty arena, but that would be about it.
Move forward in time to this last week.
The 'Yotes just lost Game Seven to the Detroit Red Wings. The stadium had sold out its last few games.
While many fans had already left to journey back to civilization (I mean, it takes half an eternity to get there from where I live in Gilbert and another half of an eternity to get back home), there was still a decent crowd left to see the end of the hockey season for the home team.
After the team handshakes, the Coyotes acknowledged the crowd and this ignited a passionate reaction, a real connection between fans and players.
(This is, I admit, a third person account. This is what I heard KTAR's Mark Asher say about it, after the fact. It made him think that, for a moment, that hockey could be successful here.)
I believe that I am not alone in the way I feel about hockey and the Coyotes.
It has been years since they were relevant (aside from having Wayne Gretzky as part of the organization). They moved far away. They have changed players too often to count.
They have just been bad.
It is commonly known that here a team has to win to be relevant. Right or wrong, with as much as there is to do in Phoenix, there are few who want to commit to a bad team or, even worse, a team with no direction.
We already have a good, competitive team that always disappoints (see Suns, Phoenix), a great team that no one cares about (see Mercury, Phoenix), and teams that just plain disappoint (see Diamondbacks, Arizona; Sun Devils, Arizona State; and Cardinals, Arizona...pre 2007...).
The Phoenix Coyotes' season, and story, was a perfect start.
There was drama and success. There are solid players and, more importantly, a bonafide hockey coach to lead the team.
However, uncertainty still looms. We do not know if the Coyotes will be staying. Will Coach Dave Tippett be back? Was this year a building block or just a fleeting dream? These are the questions that must be answered or the team will slide again into the abyss of fan apathy.
And so it is for me and probably thousands of sports fans like me. The Coyotes cast out their line with good bait and I bit. I am, though, a tricky fish and will wiggle free if they are not skilled enough to reel me in. Another competitive year or two and I believe that hockey will have me, along with thousands more, on the line, out of the water, in their boat, and (figuratively, of course) on their dinner plate.
And I wouldn't mind it.
As a fellow sports fan, what will it take for you to be won over by hockey and the Coyotes? Share your thoughts.
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