Kings-Coyotes: A rivalry in the making

Which team is the Coyotes’ arch-rival? Ask six people and

you’ll get six different answers.

“It’s really hard to say,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. “It seems to change

over the years.”

Some will tell you it’s Detroit because of playoff series matchups the past two

seasons. Not so. A rivalry is played on a two-way street. The Red Wings don’t

consider the Coyotes their rival. That distinction belongs, and always will

belong to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Some will tell Phoenix’s rival is Chicago based on the large number of Windy

City transplants in the Valley and the bad blood between the clubs from

suspension-earning hits by Andrew Shaw and Raffi Torres this postseason. But

again, when the Blackhawks see red, it’s Red Wings red. The Coyotes aren’t even

in their top five rivals.

Some will say it’s the Sharks, but when thinking of San Jose, most get

confused: It’s not San Francisco. It’s not even Oakland, and it’s definitely

too far away. 

Anaheim? No. It’s Disney on ice. Sequins, tutus, white skates and Ducks don’t

get the blood boiling.

There are only two real possibilities: Dallas or Los Angeles.

The five key factors in a rivalry are: proximity, playing in the same division,

playoff history, bad blood and a history of hatred in other sports.

Any city that houses the Cowboys warrants a healthy dose of bile, but Dallas is

too far away, and the Stars and Coyotes have zero playoff history.

By contrast, Los Angeles gets a check mark in four of the five key areas, with

the one missing ingredient, playoff history, about to be written.

“Any time you can play a playoff series against a division team, it certainly

ramps up that rivalry,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

It’s even better when it’s in the conference finals.

Los Angeles and Phoenix actually have some forgotten hockey history. From

1990-97, the Phoenix Roadrunners were the Kings’ International Hockey League

affiliate. Coyotes radio play-by-play man Bob Heethuis held the same post with

the Runners from 1992-97.

The Kings used to play a preseason game in the Valley. Coupled with all the

Roadrunners who went on to play for Kings and LA’s run to the 1993 Stanley Cup

Finals made Phoenix a Kings town before the Coyotes arrived in 1996.

Here are five more reasons why the Kings should be the Coyotes’ biggest rival.

1. Size matters: It’s the nation’s sixth largest city against the nation’s

second largest city. This is America. Big is always better, right? 

2. Kobe Bryant: He admitted he hates Phoenix. He plays for the hated and far

more successful Lakers. He plays at Staples Center. That’s good enough for us.

3. Dustin Brown’s nasty hit on Coyotes defenseman Rusty Klesla in February: The

blow knocked Klesla out of the lineup for a stretch. Hockey folks will

privately say it was a clean hit, but what fun is that when you’re ramping up a

rivalry? Besides, the hit spawned four fights, including one between Doan and

Brown. That’s bad blood. (You can see for yourself by clicking on the video

embedded on this page.)

4. Cantankerous Kings coach Darryl Sutter: Sutter doesn’t hate us as much he

hates the media in Calgary, his former workplace, but he’s no joy to interview.

Sutter’s permanent facial expression makes you wonder if he just ate a lemon. A

whole lemon. 

5. Wayne Gretzky: He did a lot for the Kings; he did a lot to the Coyotes.