The desert is not an easy place to survive. Evolutionarily speaking a species needs to adapt to the dry climate or parish under the draining, unrelenting sun. The Coyote, a common animal in the desert, is just such a beast. On the outskirts of Phoenix and it’s surrounding cities you can still find the wild scavengers running between dumpsters, looking for house pets to pick off or carrion to snatch. Coyotes are survivors. And for that reason they are one of the most hated creatures in the state of Arizona.
The Phoenix Coyotes share a lot with their chosen mascot. More than once they’ve survived attempted extinction at the hands of angry or indifferent Arizonans. The City of Glendale most recently tried to run them off, but no, the Coyotes found a way to live another day. However, beyond the Coyote being the rat of the canine world (Chihuahuas are barely even canine, come on) there is still another obstacle that the team has to hurdle to gain full acceptance in the Valley of the Sun.
We have ice in Arizona. Sure we do. Up north it even snows. The roads around Flagstaff even get dangerous at times and snow chains are needed. Really. I’m not joking. You should check it out sometime. What we don’t have a lot of in Arizona are ice enthusiasts. Sure there are a couple of ice rinks and some people even know what to do once they strap on a pair of skates, but we don’t have the familiar everyday relationship with ice that places like Edmonton, Montreal or even Boston, MA has.
Here in Arizona it’s rare that a pond will freeze over enough for the neighborhood kids to brave the ice and start a pick up game. No, we’re more likely to hit the desert with our guns and shoot at some lizards than we are to practice our slap shots on a cold winter afternoon. So it’s not hard to imagine that even the idea of a hockey team in Arizona was a tough sell. Much less one tied to the largest, driest city in the state, Phoenix.
For a time the Arizona Cardinals were called the Phoenix Cardinals. There were a couple of reasons for changing the name of the team. 1) Ever seen an actual Cardinal in Phoenix? Maybe at the zoo. Maybe. And 2) Everyone else in Arizona isn’t so fond of Phoenix. Don’t believe me? Try traveling outside of the Phoenix metropolitan area and telling the locals where you’re from. The response is usually something like, “Oh yeah? Phoenix? Where are you really from?”
Being a third generation Arizonan I can relate to this. I wasn’t born in Phoenix. No, I’m from upstate. Kingman to be exact. In places like my hometown, Jerome and even Tucson people tend to be wary or just downright unwelcoming toward outsiders. And there is nowhere more chock full of outsiders in Arizona than Phoenix, the melting pot to end all melting pots. For those Arizonans who enjoy a slower pace of life, Phoenix is not just a place to avoid it’s a place to ignore. It’s a blight on the state for many. So slapping the name Phoenix on a new sports franchise clearly wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But lets face it, the Prescott Coyotes doesn’t exactly have a ring to it, does it?
All this said, there is one thing that will get the attention of Arizonans who’ve turned a blind eye to the Yotes endeavors. Success cures all ills here. Even the Cardinals are still enjoying bandwagon success birthed from a Super Bowl appearance 5 years ago. We are still searching for an identity and support those who represent our state on the national stage. So if there was ever a time for the Coyotes to truly win over their current home, it’s now.
They are not far from a playoff chance. They need to start winning and find the ever so illusive chemistry they’ve been searching for. They need to be dominant at home and competitive on the road. They need to do all of the things a good hockey team does well (capitalize on power plays, play sound fundamental defense and cut down on turnovers to name a few) and do them consistently. Most importantly, just get in the dang ol’ playoffs and make it interesting.
Like I said before, it’s not easy to live in the desert. Only the strong SURVIVE. Until next time, stay ornery Arizona.