Tag Archives: Coyotes

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 glendalestar.com • Aug. 19, 2004


Coyotes cut staff, scramble to fill dates in case

by Jason Stone

To many NHL fans, this week’s Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 was not the culmination of an exciting season.
It only signaled the beginning of what looks to be an ugly round of labor strife within the league.
Only six months after Glendale received its first dose of the big time with the construction of Glendale Arena, the building may end up being empty for 41 hockey dates starting in September.
The Coyotes are still losing millions of dollars each year — despite no longer sharing a facility with another sports franchise — and the NHL is at one of its lowest points with owners and the players’ union not even talking.
The reality of the situation hit home last week for 12 full-time employees of the Coyotes’ management team. Five Coyotes’ employees and seven full-time workers of the arena — which the Coyotes manage — were laid off in preparation for the NHL work stoppage.
“We just felt those were the positions that in case of a work stoppage, those were the positions that would be cut,” said Coyotes president Douglas Moss.
The league’s collective bargaining agreement ends Sept. 15, and if Vegas odds were placed on whether the season will start on time, it might have been an even bet that it wouldn’t.
The Coyotes plan to re-hire the laid-off workers in case the season starts as planned, but Moss hinted that more layoffs may happen if the season is cancelled altogether.
Instead of waiting to see if the lockout will happen after Sept. 15, Moss said the Coyotes — which lost up to $10 million last season — wanted to release the affected employees now so they did not have to wait out their fate.
“I just couldn’t have all these people going through the summer months not knowing,” Moss said. “Other teams (who are making cuts), are saying ‘We know you won’t have a job, but if you want to take a chance, hang in with us.'”
NHL owners want to install a salary cap, which they say is working in the NFL and NBA.
Moss said nearly 76 percent of the NHL’s revenues goes to payroll, while the Coyotes’ figure is higher at 82 percent.
In contrast, the NFL reportedly gives 64 percent of its revenue to payroll, while the NBA is lower at 48 percent.
NHL officials want to get its figure somewhere in between 55 to 60 percent, meaning owners and players are way off on a compromise.
“We don’t have a collective bargaining agreement that benefits the Phoenix Coyotes,” Moss said. “Until we can get some help, we’ll continue to have to make cuts.”
While the front-office cuts might not affect Coyotes fans, cutting salary from the roster does.
Since Steve Ellman took over as owner three years ago, the franchise has either traded away its big-name players or allowed high-salaried players to leave via free-agency.
In the meantime, arena staff is scrambling to fill dates in case they are open if no NHL is played.
Moss said the season would likely be cancelled if more than half of the schedule is lost. That nearly happened when the NHL lockout in the 1994-95 season lasted into January.
“You can’t just replace 41 hockey games, but we are always working hard to bring new events to the arena,” Moss said.
Hoping to capitalize on the NHL’s labor woes, the Coyotes’ original league is hoping to reform this year.
The Winnipeg Jets, the Coyotes’ former incarnation before moving to Arizona in 1996, originally played in the World Hockey Association in the 1970s.
Co-founder Nick Vaccaro told CBS last week that the NHL’s labor problems have made re-starting the league this year a good idea.
The Coyotes and the NHL are hoping it doesn’t get that far.

Published at glendalestar.com • June 9, 2004


Glendale Arena ready for first ‘doubleheader’

by Jason Stone

Glendale Arena will be put into overtime this weekend.
The first of two scheduled “doubleheaders” featuring the NLL Arizona Sting and the NHL Phoenix Coyotes will be staged at the facility Saturday n albeit a few hours apart.
Artificial turf will cover the ice for the 12:30 p.m. first drop between the Sting, losers of two straight, and the Anaheim Storm.
Then, the ice will be uncovered for a 7 p.m. hockey game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators.
Separate tickets are needed to get into each game, making it not a true doubleheader. But fans starving for local professional action can get their fill in one day.
The teams will also share the building April 3 when the Coyotes play their final regular-season home game against Chicago at 2 p.m.
Later that day at 7:30 p.m., the Sting will host the Vancouver Ravens.
For tickets to either team’s games, fans can visit www.ticketmaster.com, call Ticketmaster at (480) 784-4444 or view either team’s Web site online n www.arizonasting.com or www.phoenixcoyotes.com.

Published at glendalestar.com • Feb. 20, 2004

Boucher sets record with scoreless streak

by Jason Stone

A relieved Brian Boucher sat down in front of the microphone, took a deep breath and let out all of the emotions from the past two weeks.

“It’s been a long time since I gave up a goal,” said Boucher, whose streak of 332 minutes and 1 second without being scored upon ended Sunday at Glendale Arena. “It was taking a toll on the guys. I’m glad it’s over.”

For a little more than five games, Boucher was more perfect than any goalie in the modern history of professional hockey.

And it could not have come at a better time for the Coyotes’ management, which is trying to build a new image and fan base with the December move to Glendale Arena.

In the first four games at the arena through Sunday, the Coyotes have sold out each one, including groups of standing-room-only tickets for each game.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoucher’s streak was mostly accomplished on the road as the 27-year-old goalie — who is not even the team’s starter — shut out four straight teams away from Glendale Arena.

But when the Coyotes returned home against the Thrashers Sunday, it was obvious Boucher has become the team’s new fan favorite.

Throughout the night, the crowd screamed “BOOOOOOSH” anytime a puck came near the same zip code of the hot goalie.

When Boucher finally gave up a goal on a power play just minutes into the game, the crowd stood and cheered, teammates skated out to congratulate the goalie and play was stopped for a video presentation that highlighted the feat.

“Everybody on the team is excited for him,” said right wing Shane Doan, the team’s captain. “It’s something we’ll never experience again. It ranks right up there with the great accomplishments in any sport.”

It is a story no Hollywood writer could have come up with. Boucher was not even dressing out for games when the year started as he sat behind All-Star Sean Burke and up-and-coming prospect Zac Bierk.

But the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Boucher, who was once a first-round draft pick of Philadelphia in 1995, made the most of his chances.

“We’re all relieved it’s over,” joked coach Bob Francis. “We’re tired of press conferences.”

Boucher’s streak became a national story last week, giving Glendale its first glimpse of the big time nationally — something the city will get used to with NFL football, the Fiesta Bowl and the Super Bowl all coming in the future.

The streak began innocently enough on New Year’s Eve, when fighting was the highlight of the Coyotes’ 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

Francis elected to keep Boucher in goal two nights later when the Coyotes began a four-game road trip at division-rival Dallas.

The Coyotes walloped the Stars 6-0 as Boucher turned away 35 shots to extend his personal unbeaten streak to six games at that time.

Riding the hot hand, Boucher was in goal again Jan. 4 when Phoenix traveled to Carolina. Boucher tied the club record with his third straight shutout in the 3-0 win and broke Nikolai Khabibulin’s franchise mark of 204 straight scoreless minutes.

With the nation’s attention finally grabbed, Boucher was back in goal Jan. 7 in the nation’s captial.

Boucher saved 27 shots as the Coyotes beat the Washington Capitals 3-0, giving the goalie a tie of the record, which was originally set by Montreal’s Bill Burnam in the 1948-49 season.

Two nights later, NHL history was made.

On a chilly night in Minnesota, Boucher stopped 21 shots to become the first goalie in NHL’s modern era n which began in 1943-44 with the addition of the red center line n to record five straight shutouts.

The Coyotes won 2-0 and came back home with all eyes on Glendale.

Members of the national media made the trip into the Valley to cover the historic event, giving the city a chance to show off its new facility.

Boucher’s hot streak has made him one of the top goalies in the league n at least statistically. He is second in the league in goals-against average (1.58) and first in the league in save percentage (.944).

Yet, Boucher knows his days as the team’s starting goalie are numbered with Burke, the 37-year-old team leader, still hanging around the lockerroom.

“Sean’s the starting goaltender and everybody knows that,” Boucher said.

After grasping what the streak means, a reporter asked Boucher if he thinks the record will ever be broken.

Boucher paused to think, and said, “Let’s put it this way: If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

Coyotes rising in West Conference race

Lost in all of Boucher’s success has been the rise of the Coyotes as a team. Entering the streak the Coyotes were 13th in the Western Conference standings.

But the run of five wins and tie against Atlanta in the streak-buster game has vaulted the Coyotes into eighth in the conference entering the week, which would be good enough to get Phoenix into the eight-team playoffs.

“It’s been all about the team all along,” Francis said. “It’s been real easy to coach this team lately. I just have to roll the puck out there.”

Boucher was named NHL’s Defensive Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks and the Coyotes have outscored opponents 19-1 since losing to the New York Rangers in the second game at Glendale Arena in the last week in December.

Coyotes unbeaten in last nine home games

The Coyotes are attempting to extend a noteworthy streak tonight at Nashville and tomorrow at Detroit.

The team is unbeaten in its last nine road games (5-0-4-0) and has not lost away from Glendale Arena or America West Arena — the team’s previous home — since Dec. 7.

Burke still searching for his 300th victory

Boucher’s scoreless streak has stopped Burke’s run at winning his 300th game.

Burke is stuck on 298, which is fourth among active goaltenders.

Ed Belfour has the current highest among active netminders with 419. Curtis Joseph has 390 wins, while Martin Brodeur has 385.

Burke is 20th on the all-time list, trailing Mike Richter by three victories.

Published at glendalestar.com • Jan. 15, 2004


New arena ushers in pro sports in Glendale

by Jason Stone

Two minutes before the Arizona Sting were scheduled to play their first indoor lacrosse game last Friday, the P.A. announcer for Glendale Arena prepared the crowd for the team’s arrival.
“Here come your Arizona Sting!” the announcer shouted through the 17,799-seat arena’s state-of-the-art sound system.
With the arena lights out and spotlight shining behind the south goal, all fans saw was official looking people staring down a tunnel, looking for the team.
But instead of being a bad omen of things to come, the Sting finally made their arrival after a 60-second delay and officially ushered in a new age of life in Glendale.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlaying in front of nearly 13,000 fans, the Sting won the first event in the arena 16-12 against the Vancouver Ravens.
A night later, the arena’s main tenants, the Phoenix Coyotes, played their first game on the arena’s ice, but ended with a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators.
Despite the difference in result, players, coaches and officials from both teams sang the same praises of the nation’s newest arena.
“This is something special,” said Sting forward Dan Dawson. “The crowd was a sixth man out there. We have cheap tickets and I think 13,000 fans went home happy.”
Coyotes fans were also in a chipper mood after their game because the arena’s opening almost overshadowed the game itself to everybody but Phoenix players and coach Bobby Francis.
“I don’t know if we were distracted, but we were a little tight,” Francis said. “There were a lot of nerves. Guys were doing things differently from what they normally do.”
Now, arena officials are hoping to keep building the fan excitement. Monday’s hockey game featuring the New York Rangers was expected to
sell out and a large gathering was predicted for last night’s Coyotes game against the rival Los Angeles Kings.
Sting players did their best to interact with fans after their game. Fans lined up around the main concourse to have commemorative posters signed by all the players, who were more than happy to pose for photos and sign other items.
The main Coyotes party happened before the game Saturday, with NHL officials, co-owner Wayne Gretzky and City of Glendale council members celebrating the arena’s opening in a public ceremony.
The Coyotes failed to maintain the excitement during the game, however. Despite being outshot 33-21, Nashville controlled the scoreboard the entire game.
Brian Savage, who had been demoted to the third line from the first prior to the game scored the Coyotes’ only goal of the game at the 8:21 mark of the third period.
The goal cut the team’s deficit to 2-1 and allowed arena game operators to show off the venue’s million-dollar scoreboard system, which flashed the words “GOAL” all over the building.
But that was as close as the Coyotes would get to winning their new home opener.
Martin Erat scored with less than five minutes remaining, and the Coyotes, which have made a habit of late-game comebacks this year, fell short this time.
“I asked the players before the game to reflect on what’s going on,” Francis said after the opener. “A lot of people worked hard for this dream.”

Published at glendalestar.com • Jan. 2, 2004