Tag 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.

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 glendalestar.com • 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 glendalestar.com • Aug. 19, 2004


Coyotes to open at home — maybe

by Jason Stone

Phoenix Coyotes players do not know if the 2004-05 NHL season will be staged.
But if it is, the Coyotes know who they will be playing.
The NHL released its ’04-’05 schedule last week, and baring an expected owner lockout, the Coyotes will begin at home Oct. 13 against Pacific Division-rival Dallas.
The home opener is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Glendale Arena.
All Coyotes home games except four will begin at 7 p.m. Two Sunday games, a game on New Year’s Eve and one on Martin Luther King Jr. Day will feature different starting times.
The two longest home stands at Glendale Arena will be a six-game stretch from Nov. 20 through Dec. 4 and a five-game stint from Jan. 17 through 27.
The Coyotes start the season by playing 11 of their first 19 games on the road. The longest road trip is a five-game swing through Columbus, St. Louis, San Jose, Vancouver and Anaheim from Dec. 17 through 26.
The NHL All-Star Game will be played Feb. 13 in Atlanta.
It is the last All-Star Game before Glendale hosts the event in February 2006.

Published at glendalestar.com • July 25, 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