Team Profile: The Arizona Coyotes

Hockey in the desert! I have a lot of respect for the Coyotes. Like the Stars, they deal with the challenges of building a franchise in a super non-traditional hockey market. They are also relatively young, both in terms of franchise and player age. They are under no pressure to be competitive right away, so they have the luxury of taking their time to build a team and franchise that will be great for years to come.

A brief overview:

  • Located in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference
  • Founded in 1971 (as the original Winnipeg Jets)
  • Located in Glendale, AZ
  • Arena: Gila River Arena
  • Owner: IceArizona
  • GM: John Chayka
  • Head Coach: Dave Tippett
  • Captain: Shane Doan
  • Minor League Affiliate: Tucson Roadrunners
  • Stanley Cups: none

So to clarify, this team was originally the Winnipeg Jets. The current Jets are a different franchise altogether. Since this will mostly focus on the Coyotes from 1995 onward, this will be a short profile.

The original Winnipeg Jets were founded as part of the short lived WHA. They eventually became one of 4 teams to be merged into the NHL after the WHA disbanded.

At first they struggled a bit competitively, but eventually they were making the playoffs pretty consistently, although they rarely won series.

In the 1990’s they began to struggle financially due to an increase in players’ salaries that affected Canadian teams the most. Despite a lot of protest by fans, the team was purchased by Phoenix businessmen in 1995 with plans to relocate them to Phoenix. The name Coyotes was determined by a fan contest.

After arriving in Phoenix, the team posted six consecutive .500 or better seasons, making the playoffs in every year but one. The one time they didn’t make the playoffs, in 2000–01, they became the first team to earn 90 points in the season and miss the playoffs.

The team struggled towards the later part of 2006 and onward. Attendance dropped, largely due to the poor conditions of the America West Arena they played in at the time, which wasn’t designed to accommodate a hockey rink. Eventually the franchise was sold to Steve Ellman, a Phoenix area developer, along with Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky named himself head coach, despite having never coached hockey at any level. The ensuing 2006-2007 season was the worst in franchise history since relocating to Arizona.

2008 marked the beginning of some serious financial issues for the franchise, which led to the NHL having control over the team. The owner eventually put the team into bankruptcy, causing several issues with the NHL as they had been attempting to find bidders for the franchise. After several court proceedings, the NHL bought out the Phoenix Coyotes and assumed all its debts. It worked to find a new owner for the team for several years, as most bids ended up falling through at the last minute.

Finally in 2013, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment were allowed to purchase the franchise, also signing a 15 year lease agreement with the city of Glendale in the process. Had this deal not gone through, the team would have been relocated, Seattle having been the most likely choice.

In 2014 they changed their name to the Arizona Coyotes.

After this most recent season, GM Don Maloney was relieved of his duties. In his place, John Chayka was promoted from within the organization. Promoted at 26 years old, he became the NHL’s youngest GM in history.

Notable Players:

  • Shane Doan (he’s the only active player to have been with the original Winnipeg Jets before relocating).
  • Jeremy Roenick
  • Brett Hull
  • Max Domi
  • Anthony Duclair
  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson

With new management and several young stars on the rise, this team, despite having to overcome several hurdles to get to where they are, will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.

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