Category Archives: NHL

Here’s why I love Mets, Cowboys, Jacks & Suns

by Jason Stone

People have sometimes asked me to list my favorite teams. I’ll do it one better. I’ll rank them.

Here are my favorite teams in each sport, with an explanation why.

1. New York Mets (MLB)

The Mets top my list because for some reason they are the only team that still makes me cry as an adult. I am more of a fair weather fan with my other favorite teams (Yeah, I’ll admit it!). But for some reason I follow the Mets from afar no matter how crappy they are — which is most of the time.

I began following the Mets in the late-70s after living in Flushing and visiting there every year. I didn’t really become a big fan until 1983, right as the monster teams were coming. By the time “Doctor K” Dwight Gooden was dominating the world in 1985, I was hooked. And we all know what happened a year later.

I feel the team is on the verge of something special again in the next year or two, but I don’t want to openly jinx it yet. After all, the exhibition games haven’t even started yet.

2. Dallas Cowboys (NFL)

It’s really hard to be a Cowboys fan. Mostly because of the harassment that comes from other people. It’s usually better to keep it on the down low.  But this has been a lifelong love since living outside of Dallas for a good part of my childhood.

They were the first team I was ever exposed to in the late 1970s, and I can’t seem to shake them now — no matter how frustrating the fan experience has become in the Jerry Jones era.

One of my favorite personal moments was being a reporter during Super Bowl XXX when the Cowboys beat the Steelers. I got to be in the locker room as my favorite childhood team celebrated their fifth championship.

Unfortunately I kind of made a deal with the football gods that experiencing that was enough.  Twenty years later I’m kinda wishing I never made that deal.


3. NAU Lumberjacks (NCAA — alumni division)

Well, I did drop a lot of money at the place as a student for four years, after all.

Nobody really cares about NAU sports, but for some reason there I am every Saturday in the fall listening to that week’s football game, or picking up whatever midweek basketball game happens to be going on during the winter.

I figure since I actually go out of my way to find NAU content, that must mean they’re high up on my list. I just wish more people cared because it sure is lonely being a fan of a team nobody even knows exists.


4. Phoenix Suns (NBA)

I can’t even watch the NBA unless it’s a Suns game. But I’ve invested so much emotional energy over this team — John F-ing Paxson and Robert F-ing Horry’s hip-check into Steve Nash to name two — that I just can’t bail on them yet.

Because of years of near-misses and the above-mentioned bad fortune, they deserve a championship more than any of the teams that I follow.

The 1992-93 season was the peak. Even living 150 miles away in Flagstaff, cars all over the town had windows painted with support for the Suns. I can’t even imagine what it was like in Phoenix that summer.

If there is anything right in this world, the Suns will win it all — someday.

5. ASU Sun Devils (NCAA — non-alumni division)

I began following the Devils’ football and baseball teams when my family moved to Arizona in 1984. That was just in time to catch the 1986 and 1996 Rose Bowl seasons, which were thrilling.

I still think Jake Plummer was ASU’s best player ever, but what do I know. Just seconds away from a national championship in ’96!! Oh, the agony!

As for ASU baseball, I used to love going to those games in high school in what is now former Packard Stadium. I went to most of the home games during the 1990 season. I thought for sure center fielder Mike Kelly was going to be a major league Hall of Famer. I still have never seen a player that good who wasn’t in the majors.

6. Arizona Coyotes (NHL)

I never really followed hockey closely until the Coyotes moved to Phoenix in the mid-1990s. Prior to that I had always lived in places that didn’t have hockey, and before the Internet, you needed a local team to get any kind of regular content in the daily newspapers.

So, I adopted the team that was the Winnipeg Jets, who became the Phoenix Coyotes, and then this season, the Arizona Coyotes.

The Coyotes’ playoff run to the Western Conference Finals three years ago was about as fun of a couple weeks of sports as I’ve ever experienced. Anxiety was high during every game. I would pace up and down aisles at sports bars — and even got to see a couple of the games in person for their famed “White Out.”

7. USA men’s soccer team (other division)

This is a weird one, I know. Not to sound non-patriotic but I don’t generally care if any USA teams or athletes win anything in the Olympics or whatever. I figure, we dominate everything anyway, what does it really matter if we win another.

It’s different with the U.S. men’s soccer team, though. They are still the ultimate underdogs. (I mean, U.S. fans are typically out-numbered even in home games!) Plus, every four years there is a team to root for in the World Cup, which is probably my favorite non-annual sporting event.

Best of the Rest

Arizona Cardinals (NFL)

It’s much easier to be a Cardinals fan since they moved out of the NFC East more than 10 years ago. It was an unbelievable month in January 2009 when it appeared for about 51 seconds that the Cardinals were going to win the Super Bowl. It still seems weird that they were THAT close. I have seen most of this team’s games since they moved to Arizona in 1988, so it’s hard not to like them.

Texas Rangers (MLB)

I don’t follow them on a day-to-day basis, but from the late-70s until the early-90s they were my favorite team, alongside the Mets. This was back in the days when you could have a favorite in both the American and National leagues.

Teams I Used To Like

Dallas Mavericks (NBA)

Before moving to Phoenix, I was a big Mavericks fan during their first three or four seasons in the league. Of course, they were the worst team in the NBA during that time, so I never got to enjoy them winning anything. And since I became a big Suns fan, they became the enemy quickly.

New York Yankees (MLB)

I liked the Yankees for exactly one year. During the 1981 season, I attended my first game at Yankee Stadium, which just so happened to be the first game after the infamous players’ strike that year. Between 1977 and 1981, the Yankees played the Dodgers three times in the World Series, and because I identified with the East Coast more at the time, I sided with the Yankees. Of course, the one time I root for the Yankees is the one time they don’t win.

Phoenix Giants/Firebirds (MiLB)

Yeah, I actually had a favorite minor-league team back in the day.  The Giants (later named the Firebirds) were the AAA affiliate for the San Francisco Giants and they played their games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium when the first pitch temperature was usually around 107 degrees. The best part of those games: the nachos! I can still taste them 30 years later.

Public gets first view of Glendale Arena at open house

by Jason Stone

The Glendale Arena is not yet open, but that has not stopped 9-year-old Devin Aschenbrenner from being excited for a certain upcoming event.

“WWE, baby,” Aschenbrenner screamed when asked what events he’s looking forward to at the Valley’s newest sports and entertainment facility. “I love Undertaker, Kane and Stonecold Steve Austin — the Texas Rattlesnake.”

The WWE Road to Wrestlemania is scheduled for Jan. 3, but last Sunday fans were treated to an early glimpse of the arena — albeit a small portion.

About 12,000 people — or half the average attendance for an Arizona Cardinals game this year — visited the arena to watch the Phoenix Coyotes hold their first hockey practice on the ice, sit in seats and participate in games and giveaways in the parking lot.

Arena officials opened up the east side of the lower bowl to the public, generating excitement for the official Dec. 26 opening.

“We’re waiting for the arena to open before we go to games (this year),” said Glendale resident Theresa Parkhouse, 39, who sat with her husband, Scott, in the fourth row at center ice.

“Just look at that monitor,” Scott said, pointing to the large hanging scoreboard above the ice. “That’s nice.”

Pointing was the action of the day as ushers and onlookers searched out aspects of the arena that set it apart from others.

Professor Splat, part of the City of Glendale’s Slow Down Fridays campaign, tried to get fans fired up by practicing their Coyotes howling.

“The acoustics are horrible,” said Splat, who was dressed in a red school graduation outfit, complete with camp and tassel, but did not give his real name. “But that’s because we need more participation.”

Splat turned to a group of fans seated in the middle of the center section and yelled out, “Come on, everybody! Ow-ow-ow-owwwww!”

Coyotes officials sold game tickets outside the arena and children had chances to win skate passes and get their faces painted.

Adults, meanwhile, received the chance to check out the prices at the concession stands.

A Coyote Dog runs $4.50, while a souvenir soda will cost $5. The arena will offer Seattle’s Best Coffee for $3 and margaritas will set fans back $6.50.

Kids even can purchase a value meal of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a soda, chips and a cookie for $5.

“I already love it here,” said Eric Aschenbrenner, Devin’s father. “It’s nice and open. And there is not a bad seat in the house.”

Officials estimate 3,000 canned food items were donated at the door.

Published at • Dec. 18, 2003

Hockey appears done; AIA coming

by Jason Stone

The NHL’s loss might just be the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s gain.

With the Phoenix Coyotes season on life support and Glendale Arena aggressively trying to fill dates with other events, the AIA and the arena agreed to bring “February Frenzy” to the facility starting this year.

All basketball state tournament championships will now be played at Glendale Arena, instead of America West Arena, which has hosted the game since opening its doors 12 years ago.

The arena will also host the wrestling and spirit line championships.

“I think this is great for the West Valley — especially people in Glendale and Peoria,” said Peoria High athletic director Kevin Forgia, a longtime West Valley resident who has also headed up the program at Cactus in the past. “It certainly makes it convenient for us.”

The addition of the championship games — and possible football hosting spot at the new Cardinals Stadium in 2006 — has given Glendale another feather in its sports cap.

The city already will receive the Fiesta Bowl starting in 2006, the Super Bowl in 2008 and the NHL All-Star Game in 2006.

The Cardinals officially begin play at the new stadium in 2006.

Published at • Dec. 22, 2004

Coyotes’ season on hold

by Jason Stone

Shane Doan’s game-winning goal for Team Canada in the World Cup of hockey last week might be the only meaningful tally a Phoenix Coyotes player scores all season.

As expected, NHL owners officially locked out players after the league’s collective bargaining agreement expired Sept. 15.

Coyotes president Douglas Moss made this official statement about the lockout:

“The NHL Board of Governors and commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the opening of training camps will be delayed and the start of the 2004-05 regular season is in jeopardy until a resolution is reached in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association.

“The league has our full support as we take this difficult, but necessary, step toward creating a new economic system that will help our club in the future.

“The Phoenix Coyotes organization apologizes for the inconvenience this necessary action will cause its loyal fans, employees and business partners. We hope our team will be back in action soon.”

Glendale Arena was to host a series of preseason games before the regular season kicked off in two weeks.

The Coyotes, who also manage other events at Glendale Arena, are now scrambling to fill the dates in the arena with other events while hockey is put on hold.

Among the notable events already scheduled are concerts featuring Steven Curtis Chapman Oct. 22, Avril Lavigne Nov. 17 and the just-announced date with Yanni Nov. 7.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have officially cancelled all their preseason games and their home opener for the regular season schedule.

The Coyotes still have the Oct. 1 home opener against Los Angeles listed on the Glendale Arena schedule.

Coyotes make roster moves despite stoppage

Despite the league’s lockout, the Coyotes were active in roster moves last week.

The team signed free-agent left wing Landon Bathe to a two-year contract and free-agent center Olivier Latendresse to a three-year deal.

The team also assigned goaltender Jean-Marc Pelletier to the Utah Grizzlies of the American Hockey League. Utah is the Coyotes’ new top minor league affiliate.

Pelletier played in four games with the Coyotes last season, and spent most of the season at Springfield in the AHL.

Published at • Sept. 22, 2004

Coyotes bolster roster by signing scoring great

by Jason Stone

Now, all they need is a coach.

And a season.

The busy offseason for the Phoenix Coyotes continued last week with a handful of signings, highlighted by the arrival of NHL scoring legend Brett Hull.

Hull, the third leading scorer in NHL history, signed a two-year, free-agent deal to bring the veteran right wing to Glendale.

Hull, who is behind Coyotes co-owner Wayne Gretzky and Hall of Famer Gordie Howe in NHL career scoring, agreed to the contract with the Coyotes after an 11th-hour attempt for the Dallas Stars, his last team, to re-sign him.

Hull has 741 career goals, ranking him behind Gretzky (894) and Howe (801). Hull scored 25 goals with the Stars last year.

“I’m excited to get going,” Hull said. “I hope we get to play on time.”

The start of the NHL season is in doubt because of labor strife. The league’s collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15 and it is expected owners will lock out players from training camp.

The Coyotes are also looking for a head coach. Rick Bowness has acted as the interim coach since Bobby Francis‘ firing in the spring, but Bowness has not been named permanent coach.

The team’s roster appears set, though, with the additions of Hull, Mike Ricci and Sean O’Donnell in the offseason.

“We were accused of dumping payroll and we did,” Coyotes owner Steve Ellman said about the team trading away high-priced players over the last two years. “But we did because we have a plan for the future and signing Brett Hull is part of that plan.”

The Winnipeg Jets, the Coyotes’ former incarnation, retired the No. 9 jersey of his father, Bobby, in 1989.

But the team announced it “unretired” the jersey so Brett could wear it next season.

Between Hull and Gretzky, the Glendale team will be represented by more than 1,600 regular-season goals.

Published at • Aug. 19, 2004