The Arizona Coyotes have beaten some very good hockey teams this season, but duly earned recognition and respect from their NHL peers has been slow in coming.
The Coyotes organization and its fan base are well aware of the overall success the team has had thus far this season. To a lesser extent, so are the teams in the Pacific Division, as they witnessed first hand the evolution of the Coyotes as being in the hunt for the playoffs last year right up to the end of the season.
The ‘Yotes’ relevance is more evident than ever this season, at least locally, as they sit atop the Pacific Division. Its fans have witnessed the “scratchin’ and clawin'” style of hockey that has earned their support and made the Coyotes a viable contender for the coveted post season.
But are the Coyotes considered serious playoff contenders by other organizations and the players throughout the NHL? Do we as fans care? Does the organization care, or is it to the desert dogs’ advantage to play their effective, disciplined style of grinding hockey “under the radar” so that other teams don’t take them seriously? After all, who ever heard of a professional hockey team located in the southwestern US desert, much less a successful one? It took a while for hockey “purists” to even acknowledge that ice hockey was a possibility in warm weather climates.
It is human nature for people and organizations to want to be recognized and given credit for their accomplishments in their chosen fields, and professional sports is certainly no exception. So does a perceived or actual lack of respect result in motivation that has positive effects for the Coyotes as a whole? Can a “chip on a shoulder” feed the egos of highly skilled, competitive and professional athletes? You bet it does!
When word gets around, or better yet first-hand observation enlightens the unenlightened, the Coyotes current advantage of being taken too lightly may dissipate, disappear. In the interim, however, the Coyotes, even in what many consider a small, warm weather (and thus blasphemous) hockey market, may very well gain the respect and recognition they ultimately deserve.
I have a feeling, though, that the Arizona Coyotes are probably too busy preparing for and winning most of their games to dwell much on outside distractions or opinions. Instead, their respect is gained each and every time they take the ice. One game at a time boys. Give ’em hell in Pittsburgh!