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Edmonton Oilers vs Arizona Coyotes 3 12 16 Rexall Place Box Area Sec 108
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Edmonton Oilers vs Arizona Coyotes 1 2 16 Rexall Place Box Area Sec 108
More about the Arizona Coyotes
Though the Arizona Coyotes have only been around in this iteration since 1996, the history of the club in professional hockey actually dates back to 1972. More than two decades before the club moved to Arizona they were known as the Winnipeg Jets, and they were one of the original teams of the World Hockey Association, a rival professional hockey league to the NHL in the 1970s.
The Jets were the most successful of the WHA franchises. In the seven years the league was in existence the Jets captured the Avco World Cup (the WHA's equivalent to the Stanley Cup) on three separate occasions - more than any other team. This was in no small part due to the club's signing of Chicago Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull, who gave both the club and the league itself instant legitimacy.
Unfortunately for Jets fans that success wouldn't be duplicated when the team joined the NHL prior to the 1979-80 season in a merger that also saw the Hartford Whalers, Edmonton Oilers and Quebec Nordiques join the NHL fold. The Jets were brutal early on, but did get better as the years went on.
Over the next decade and a half the franchise boasted great stars like Dale Hawerchuk, Teemu Selanne, Keith Tkachuk and Nikolai Khabibulin. However, despite a passionate fan base and moderate success (though no deep playoff runs) economic reality intruded. The combination of a weak Canadian dollar, rapidly increasing player salaries, a small arena, and a relatively small market (compared to other NHL franchises) eventually forced the Jets out of Winnipeg. In 1996 the club picked up stakes and moved to the Arizona desert, where they would undergo a name change and don Phoenix Coyotes jerseys.
The First Decade of the Phoenix Coyotes
Though the Phoenix Coyotes didn't enjoy the incredible success that the Colorado Avalanche did - The Avs (formerly Quebec Nordiques) had relocated to Denver the year before for the same economic reasons and went on to win the 1996 Stanley Cup. Still with a roster that included former Chicago Blackhawks star Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, Rick Tocchet, Mike Gartner and a young Shane Doan the Coyotes were able to more than hold their own.
In four of their first five seasons the club reached the post-season, but were never able to advance past the first round. Still, despite their lack of playoff success the Coyotes were enormously popular. Unfortunately, as it had in Winnipeg, financial woes reared their ugly head. Because their arena had been initially designed with no thought to hockey and the architecture of the building led to blind spots in certain areas, the seating capacity for hockey games was cut down to approximately 16,000, giving their home building the second lowest capacity in the league.
Wayne Gretzky Steps Behind the Bench in Phoenix
Though he never suited up in a Phoenix Coyotes jersey as a player, Wayne Gretzky had become part owner of the club in 2001. In 2005 he decided to get closer to ice level, relieving Rick Bowness of his duties and stepping behind the bench himself.
There were some who speculated that the move was a bid to try and rekindle flagging fan interest in the Coyotes franchise and to spur ticket sales. However, Gretzky didn't prove to have the same wizardry behind the bench as he had as a player and the product on the ice took a nosedive. In 2006-07 the Coyotes finished with their worst record since relocation. However, Gretzky stubbornly continued coaching, determine to turn the ship in the right direction. However, determination would not be enough, and the Coyotes would miss the playoffs every one of the four seasons Gretzky was coach.
Today's Arizona Coyotes
In 2009-10 the Phoenix Coyotes were the surprise of the league. Though they'd been forced to declare bankruptcy, had been the subject of numerous rumors that had them moving back to Winnipeg or Hamilton and with ownership in question everyone expected the Yotes to finish dead last in the league.
However, new coach Dave Tippett was able to do something that Gretzky never could: get the best out of his players. Though there were few bona fide NHL stars wearing Phoenix Coyotes sweaters that season every player bought in to the system. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who'd been claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks in late 2007, had a career year and his stellar play was a huge reason the Coyotes surprised everyone in the hockey world.
Ultimately the team would finish with 50 wins and 107 points. However, despite their great regular season they would have the misfortune of matching up against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. In the end the Red Wings' experience would tell, and they ended the Coyotes' Cinderella season in 7 games.
Despite the confusion still surrounding the club regarding its financial status and its ownership situation the future of the on-ice product looks bright indeed. With young stars like Wojtek Wolski, Martin Hanzal and Kyle Turris just starting to reach their potential, and a solid core of veterans that includes Ed Jovanovski and Shane Doan this club should continue to be competitive down the road.