Coyotes logoLast night I watched the last Coyotes game of this season on television. The team ended on a high note by beating the Anaheim Ducks. I am an unabashed “newbie” to Coyotes hockey. Although they had been playing in Glendale since 2003 I was consumed with my duties as a Councilmember. I barely knew they existed despite season after season of games played in our city-owned arena.

Then disaster struck in 2009 with the Moyes’ bankruptcy. Suddenly I was reading countless Memoranda of Understanding, meeting potential owners, and rereading old as well as newly drafted arena management agreements. Council meetings lasted long into the night as each potential owner was brought forward and Coyotes fans and opposition contingents spoke before packed Council Chambers. All failed. Still, even with my sudden immersion, I was not a fan—until April and May of 2012—playoff season. As a councilmember I had the opportunity to attend those games and to meet the players, the coaches and the support staff.

All of a sudden I became a fan. One could not help but become one. I met young men filled with passion and pride for their sport. I’ve met football players, basketball players and baseball players and none meet the standard of grace and dignity that I saw in these men – these hockey players. (I will add one disclaimer. Larry Fitzgerald also epitomizes that same grace and dignity. Someday I will do a blog on pro athletes and their lack of respect for the very fans responsible for their status.) This Coyotes team showed me that they respect their sport and that their fans are an important part of the game. From Shane Doan taking time after a game to visit with fans, especially the youngest of them to Paul Bissonnette sponsoring a group of underprivileged kids to a game. I talked to Don Maloney and Dave Tippett, both highly skilled professionals and outstanding ambassadors of their sport. I talked to members of the support staff who come to work because they love their jobs and assisting these men in their quest for excellence. I got to know Mike Nealy and Jim Voss, who despite ownership uncertainty have incredibly increased the fan base and game attendance. I respect what they have been able to achieve.

Now it became important to me to insure that the Coyotes stayed where I believed they belonged. They are an asset to this community and can contribute to making a difference in the lives of many. I felt sure we were about to welcome Greg Jamison as the new team owner. The man impressed me not just with his business acumen but with his passion for the sport. Trust me; I have learned that it is an unusual combination. It was not to be and I left my office this past January with ownership still in turmoil feeling frustrated and angry that there was no resolution.

I do not know who the NHL will choose as the new owner but it discomfits me that the decision will be based on what I believe will be exclusively dollars and cents. There should be extra points awarded for intangible qualities that rise above the “bottom line.” Instead I see some potential owners-not all-who consider buying the team wholly as an investment opportunity.  They and their investors expect a substantial return on their investment. I have not seen their passion for the sport.

It is akin to a great chef or artist. They don’t become great because of their skill in the use of fundamentals. Thousands of people learn the fundamentals and never rise to greatness. Those that do become great do so because their passion for what they do causes them to transfer that passion to us in a tangible fashion that we can understand and appreciate. That is what a new team owner must also do – transfer that passion to us in a tangible fashion causing us to be as excited about the team and its future as we, once upon a time, had been. The promise is there, just below the surface, awaiting an owner who believes as we have always believed. It is awaiting an owner who can successfully transfer his passion and belief in the team’s greatness to us. Perhaps I am being Don Quixote-ish. Perhaps I am hoping for a miracle but miracles do happen.

We end this bittersweet season in limbo, not knowing if that was indeed the last game here for the Coyotes. I read the unspoken and unanswered question in recent expressions of fan appreciation for a season, too short, just passed. I read their bravado expressed in the belief that the Coyotes will return next season but underneath it all was a current of wistful uncertainty. I saw and heard it in the faces of and in the voices of Tyson Nash, Todd Walsh and Matthew McConnell, at the end of the last televised game. Not daring to talk about ownership. Not daring to wonder if the team would be playing here in October and acting as if this would be just the end of a regular season and not the end of our Coyotes.

Believe ringIt is as if everyone with a commitment to this team has suffered death by a thousand paper cuts and yet, all have remained resilient and survived. It has survived because of the indomitable spirit of the players, coaches and staff who daily rose above the uncertainty. It has survived because WE BELIEVE… that the Coyotes will stay here…in the desert.