So long, Phoenix Coyotes; we’ll remember you fondly

The Coyotes and Nashville Predators shake hands after the Coyotes eliminated the Predators to advance to the 2012 Western Conference finals.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When the Phoenix Coyotes become the Arizona Coyotes on Friday at the NHL Draft, the switch won’t really be made to entice folks from around the state to join the fan base. 

The Coyotes would love to have more people at Arena as they look to build on last season’s league-high attendance increase, but residents of Tucson, Flagstaff and Yuma won’t be lining up to buy season tickets just because the name makes them feel like part of the family.

In reality, this switch was made to appease the Coyotes’ home city of Glendale, which approved for them a 15-year, $225 million arena lease agreement. But that doesn’t mean the Coyotes won’t be able to capitalize on the name change in the future.

For now, the uniform changes are subtle — a new shoulder patch, a new wordmark and a yet-to-be unveiled third jersey — but co-owner Anthony LeBlanc is a marketing man by trade and new merchandise equals money, so expect greater changes down the road as the IceArizona ownership group chases the goal of being profitable by Year 3 of its tenure.

In the meantime, in honor of the Phoenix Coyotes’ 18 years of existence, we say goodbye to the old name with a look back at the 18 most memorable moments (in chronological order) in franchise history — with input from FOX Sports Arizona’s Todd Walsh, Graham Taylor, Brett Hansen and Jody Jackson, as well as Coyotes correspondent, Jerry Brown, who has covered the team since it arrived in the Valley. 

So long, Phoenix Coyotes.

18. The move south: Indulge me a personal memory. While working at the East Valley Tribune, I asked then-Trib columnist Mark Emmons (now with the San Jose Mercury News) if the NHL would ever move to Phoenix. "Not a chance," the always-affable Emmons said. Shortly thereafter, the Tribune, with inside information from then-Jet Ed Olczyk, broke the news that the Winnipeg Jets would be relocating to America West Arena — a move that was officially announced by owners Richard Burke and Steven Gluckstern on Dec. 19, 1995. After a name-the-team contest, management settled on the Phoenix Coyotes.

17. J.R. becomes face of franchise: Wanting an American face to market to its new fan base — and having just traded popular Finn Teemu Selanne before the move (Doh!) — the Coyotes acquired Chicago forward Jeremy Roenick on Aug. 16, 1996 in exchange for center Alex Zhamnov, wing Craig Mills and a first-round pick (wing Ty Jones, who played a total of 16 NHL games). To this day, Roenick is likely the most popular Coyote ever, with only current captain Shane Doan giving him a run for that title.

16. Walt does 50/50: On April 6, 1997 against the Colorado Avalanche, left wing Keith "Walt" Tkachuk scored his 50th goal for the second consecutive season to become the first player in franchise history to record more than one 50-goal season. Tkachuk totaled 323 goals (third all-time) and 623 points (fourth all-time) with the franchise before he was traded to St. Louis on March 13, 2001.

15. The first WhiteOut: On April 20, 1997, the Coyotes played the first NHL playoff game in Phoenix in the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Importing a Winnipeg tradition, thousands of fans filled America West Arena dressed in white, and the Coyotes defeated Anaheim, 4-1.

14. A class act achieves a milestone: On Dec. 14, 1997, veteran right wing Mike Gartner scored his 700th career NHL goal against Detroit, becoming only the fifth player in league history to reach that milestone. Only Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Marcel Dionne, and Phil Esposito shared this accomplishment with Gartner at the time. (Brett Hull and Jaromir Jagr have since joined the 700 club.)

13. Hatcher’s hit, Roenick’s jaw and Tkachuk’s defense: In a hit that was part retaliation for a blindside hit that Jeremy Roenick laid on Dallas star Mike Modano in a previous game, Stars defenseman Derian Hatcher broke Roenick’s jaw on a leaping, forearm shiver in a 4-2 Dallas win on March 14, 1999. Hatcher earned a seven-game suspension, but the sides weren’t done. After Dallas goalie Ed Belfour slew-footed Keith Tkachuk, defenseman Darryl Sydor had to protect his goalie and instead got pummeled by Tkachuk in a fight. Roenick’s jaw was utterly shattered, and it was assumed he would miss the team’s entire first-round playoff series against St. Louis. But Roenick returned in a Game-7 loss with the jaw and his mouth wired shut, meaning he had to breathe solely through his nose, which required frequent blowing to clear any obstructions. Roenick understood the risks, but he was more concerned with the potential reward. "Who cares if your jaw gets broken again? It will heal. You don’t have too many opportunities to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "I didn’t have to use my mouth or jaw to play hockey. I used my hands, my feet and my heart."

12. The Great One arrives: On May 26, 2000, soon-to-be owner Steve Ellman announced that Wayne Gretzky would join the new Coyotes ownership group under Los Arcos Sports, LLC. Gretzky became the managing partner in charge of hockey operations. More importantly, he lent his name and visibility to a fledgling market in search of a bigger fan base and a new home in Scottsdale.

11. Sean Burke saves the day: With goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and the team embroiled in a year-long contract dispute — Khabibulin held out the entire 1999-2000 season, playing for the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the IHL before he was traded to Tampa Bay — the Coyotes acquired Burke for, gulp, Mikhail Shtalenkov. Burke enjoyed a career renaissance under goalie coach Benoit Allaire (now with the Rangers). In October of 2000 he was named NHL Player of the Month, posting a 7-1-1 record, a 1.54 goals against average and a .950 save percentage, helping the Coyotes to their best start in franchise history. In March of 2002, he won Player of the Month again, posting a 9-1-0 record, a 1.70 goals against average and .940 save percentage. He also acquired the coaching tools from Allaire to one day assume his role with the organization.

10. Another class act achieves a milestone: On Sept. 15, 2001, quiet captain Teppo Numminen played in his 951st game with the franchise, becoming its all-time games played leader, surpassing Thomas Steen’s 950. Numminen played 1,098 games for the Coyotes, a total eclipsed only by current captain Shane Doan (1,315).

9. Krys Kolanos scores on a penalty shot vs. Patrick Roy: On March 30, 2002, Kolanos, the Coyotes’ 2000 first-round pick, turned the trick in a 5-3 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. In this case, the pictures are worth a thousand words. Here is the polite version from the Coyotes website. Below is the more entertaining version.

8. Like father, like son: After leading his team to the 2002 playoffs with a completely retooled roster, coach Bob Francis won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year. His father, Emile Francis, twice won the award, making them the first father-son coaching tandem in NHL history to win the award.

7. The Job is finished: After seven and a half seasons in the Valley, the Coyotes finally opened their own arena in Glendale. Before a standing-room-only crowd of 19,052 at Glendale Arena (later named Arena), the Coyotes lost to the Nashville Predators, 3-1.

6. Boucher’s shutout streak: Goalie Brian Boucher’s Phoenix and NHL careers were not memorable ones, but for one glorious stretch of games he was the talk of the NHL. On Jan. 9, 2004, Boucher set an NHL modern-era record with his fifth consecutive shutout, making 21 saves in a 2-0 win at Minnesota. In the previous games, he shut out L.A., Dallas, Carolina and Washington. Boucher also eclipsed another NHL modern-era record in the Minnesota game when he surpassed Bill Durnan’€™s scoreless sequence of 309 minutes and 21 seconds (set in 1948-49). Boucher’s shutout sequence ended at 332:01 when he allowed a goal at 6:16 of the first period against Atlanta on Jan. 11.

5. Shane Doan’s first and only career hat trick: Here is part of my story from that night on Jan. 7, 2012, along with the video:

Shane Doan skated to the bench with a grim smile creasing his face. The clock was running out and so was his strength. The Coyotes captain appeared destined for an individual NHL record that nobody wants: the most career two-goal games without a hat trick. 

He had tried everything from voodoo to prayers to break the streak. He had even altered the bizarre, curved, tape knob at the end of his stick — the one teammate Ray Whitney referred to as an "axe handle." 

Now the fans at Arena were chanting his name. Coach Dave Tippett kept sending him back on the ice, and he logged 8 minutes and 51 seconds in the third period alone. And his teammates kept feeding him the puck. But Doan couldn’t convert for that elusive third goal. 

"It was getting embarrassing," he said. 

In an ending befitting the nicest guy ever to lace up skates, Doan got one last crack off a cross-ice pass from Whitney. With one-tenth of a second left, he put every last ounce of his strength into a laser from the left circle, beating New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov between the legs for the final goal in Phoenix’s 5-1 win on Saturday. 

But the drama didn’t stop there. Because the goal came so late, officials had to review it to make certain it had beaten the final horn. 

"I went over and told the refs, ‘Listen, it’s been a long time. It’s been 16 years,’ " Whitney said. "’Tell Toronto that this may never happen again, so make sure this counts.’" 

It did. And with that, No. 19 registered his first career hat trick in the Coyotes’ 19th home game of the season, ending his dubious streak at 38 two-goal games without a hat trick. That tied the 16-year veteran with Petr Sykora for the most in league history. Doan fell short of Scott Mellanby’s 319 career goals without a hat trick. Doan had 308. 

"It was kind of cool it lasted as long as it did," Doan said. "It gave you a good story."

4. Beating the Blackhawks: Chicago was one season removed from its first Stanley Cup in 49 years when the teams met in the first round of the 2012 Western Conference playoffs. There were plenty of memorable moments in that series — Raffi Torres’ suspension-earning hit on Marian Hossa, the first five games going into overtime and goalie Mike Smith’s consistent brilliance — but the Coyotes took any drama out of the sixth and deciding game when they shut out Chicago, 4-0, at United Center to win the franchise’s first-ever playoff series in style.

3. A Western Conference final berth: In the crowning achievement to the franchise’s best season to date — one in which the team won its first division title and coach Dave Tippett won the Jack Adams Award — the Coyotes eliminated the Nashville Predators in five games to reach their first conference final in 2012.

2. The Glendale City Council votes yes: After a public and sometimes contentious four-plus hour session in front of hundreds of fans and foes, the final hurdle to new ownership in the Valley was crossed when the Glendale City Council voted 4-3 in favor of an amended arena-lease deal with Renaissance Sports and Entertainment that will pay RSE (now IceArizona) $15 million per year over 15 years in exchange for a number of revenue streams which the new owners believe will cover all of Glendale’s cost. The vote ended a four-year ownership saga for a host of people who had been battling to keep the team here, not the least of whom was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

"It’s not about my emotions," Bettman said. "This is really about the fact that uncertainty hanging over this franchise has finally been lifted and that’s great for everybody in the Valley, in particular anybody who is a fan of the franchise or cares about the franchise." 

That was the polished answer, but GM Don Maloney delivered the best quote: "Everybody who’s followed this saga has said ‘decide something or just shoot us.’ Fortunately, we got the result we needed to stay in a great place and a great hockey town."

1. Mike Smith’s goal: Goalie Mike Smith capped a 5-2 win and a season series sweep of the hated Detroit Red Wings when he scored into an empty net with 0.1 seconds left in an Oct. 19, 2013, game at Arena, becoming just the 11th goaltender in NHL history to score a goal.

With about 5 seconds on the clock, Smith gloved a shot from just inside the blue line by Detroit’s Mikael Samuelsson. He quickly dropped it and launched it down the ice, and with Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard on the bench for an extra attacker, it slid across the goal line just before the final horn. 

"Everything has to work right and the clock has to slow down at the right time in the game to let it trickle over the line," Smith said. "It was just a bonus to a great win."

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