The Jobing.com Arena press box Sunday night March 20, turned into celebrity row.
First, there was Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer telling Phoenix Coyotes radio and television networks, in separate interviews, that he restructured conditions in which he would receive $100 million in bond money from the city of Glendale.
Hulsizer said he wrote to the Goldwater Institute, a persistent critic of the deal to give Hulizer money to buy the Coyotes, and indicated he will pay back $75 million of the $100 million over the course of the loan. Hulsizer also pledged the other $25 million in cash to the city of Glendale immediately.
Further, Hulsizer argued the deal is legal, and believes Goldwater should put as much energy in supporting the Coyotes’ long-term presence in the desert as it has attempting to litigate against the transaction.
Then, there was Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) who popped in to meet Hulsizer and reiterated how important the Coyotes franchise is to Arizona, financially and from an image perspective.
So much for the latest off-ice sideshow.
While the soap opera continues to swirl in the media and in the bond marketplace, the Coyotes, on the ice, persist to fight for playoff positioning.
Coming off a five-game winning streak, and a sweep of a recent four-game road trip, the Coyotes hope a six-game home stand will be a catalyst to playoff dreams.
Because they have played better on the road than at home, the next two weeks at Jobing.com Arena will likely foreshadow the Coyotes postseason hopes.
Despite losing 2-1 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks March 20, the game represented the first contest of this critical home stand. Next month, the Coyotes finish the season with back-to-back games, home and away, with the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks, and those games could loom strategically important.
Before a packed house of 17, 328 against Chicago, the Coyotes cranked up the energy level, and the match had the feel of a playoff game.
Down 1-0, Phoenix gained in the equalizer late in the second period when Eric Belanger’s shot deflected off the skate of Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy and behind Corey Crawford at 18:43. That deadlocked matters until late in the third period.
Here, the Coyotes felt they were victimized by a cardinal rule in hockey.
In a tie game, and especially late in the contest, referees should swallow their whistles, players and coaches felt collectively. Paul Devorski did not, and called a holding penalty on Phoenix captain Shane Doan with just over eight minutes remaining. The Hawks capitalized when Chris Campoli converted a perfect pass in front from captain Jonathan Toews into the game winner with just under six and a half minutes remaining.
The loss broke the Phoenix five-game winning streak, but left a reminder of the creditable job officials should do in critical situations.
“I have way too much respect for Paul Devorski to make any comment,” Doan said afterward. “I know he’s trying, and I just don’t want to say anything about it.”
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett echoed what the officials’ role in the final minutes of a close game should entail. Tippett was particularly angered because he said he did not see where Doan committed any type of infraction.
“I watched it about 20 times, and just finished watching the play again before I came in here,” he said referring to the post-game interview room. “I don’t understand it all. To me, there was no hold whatsoever. It’s disappointing that a call like that will have an impact on a very competitive game in a very tight playoff race.”
In the end, the Coyotes took the Devorski’s call in stride, and, looking ahead to the rest of the home stand, Doan simply said, “we have to win. That’s all it comes down. We have to find ways to win.”
The home stand resumes March 22 (St. Louis) and the 24 (Columbus) with those teams out of the playoff picture. A showdown looms this Saturday, March 26, when the Sharks skate into Jobing.com, and concludes with Dallas (March 29), and Colorado (April 1).
Against the Hawks. Doan had a seven game scoring streak stopped. Doan and Radim Vrbata remained tied for the team lead in goals with 18 each, while Keith Yandle leads in assists with 46. The 46 assists is also tops among all NHL defenseman. Yandle was tied for the league lead in defenseman scoring with Lubomir Visnovsky of Atlanta (each with 57 points) prior to the Chicago game.
The Coyotes continue to be a better team on the road. Coming into the Chicago game March 20, the Desert Dogs were fourth in the league on the road with a record of 22-12-5. At Jobing.com, they were 18th in the league with a mark of 17-11-6.