When people hear about the desert, hockey is not the first thing that comes to mind for most. However, in Arizona, hockey has become a fan favorite and continues to grow, especially among youth.
The Winnipeg Jets came to the state in 1996 and were quickly rebranded to the Arizona Coyotes and have since made a name for themselves in the NHL. Gila River Arena can be seen filled with loyal fans each game that will stay until the very end no matter the outcome. While their past records have not always been the best, they have made nine playoff runs in their time in Arizona, clinched one division title and created an incentive to stay in the desert.
Each time a season ends, the question of whether the Coyotes will stay in the desert comes into play and the longtime dispute continues. Should hockey be in the desert?
Well, “Why would it not belong here?” is constantly asked by fans of the organization or players of the Coyotes’ youth teams.
Even though Phoenix does not have snow or pond hockey, it doesn’t seem to bother hockey players who live there. Arizona native and NHL player Auston Matthews is a unique case of hockey talent from the state.
It is uncommon around Arizona, so youth teams are seen as underdogs when they travel around the country for tournaments. The tight-knit community of fans and players has shown the league a true dedication to the sport.
So why should the climate matter if the passion and dedication from players and coaches exist?
The Coyotes organization is dedicated to staying in Arizona for the time being and commits to expanding hockey in the desert. The Coyotes have spread the sport by creating youth teams as well as building outdoor rinks for different parts of the state. This has allowed the youth to try a new sport both indoors and outdoors.
Arizona hockey is becoming a topic of conversation that is unexpected by most tourists. While some see the sport being talked about as questionable to the natural climate, it brings more attention to the state and the teams, which bring in more fans and viewers for TV stations when airing games.
This stirring conversation creates a buzz that drives the team to play harder, proving that they deserve to stay with the fans that have been there since day one.
While the question of if hockey should be moved from the desert still gets asked, it is clear that the fans in Arizona, as well as the teams here will always answer yes. No matter the weather or if it is traditional or not, traditions are made to be broken when new opportunities come around.