NHL: Phoenix hoping to regain its lost mojo with fans

2013-01-11T00:00:00Z NHL: Phoenix hoping to regain its lost mojo with fansThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

GLENDALE - The Coyotes made hockey cool in the desert again with their run to the Western Conference finals last season, invigorating a blase fan base with a blue-collar mentality and unprecedented playoff push.

The emergence of Greg Jamison as a potential owner who could end three years of instability fueled the momentum as the Coyotes headed into the offseason.

The NHL lockout brought everything to a halt.

With months of get-nowhere negotiations, all the cachet the Coyotes had built up was gone.

Hockey again had become an afterthought in the Valley of the Sun, but now that it's game on again, the Coyotes are hoping to find a way to get their mojo back in what figures to be a fast and furious shortened season.

"The games are going to be exciting, and I think that's where we'll get our fans back," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said Thursday from Jobing.com Arena.

The NHL lockout was a long, contentious process, 113 days of hopes for a season lifting and crashing too many times to count.

The impasse finally ended in the wee hours of Sunday, when a 16-hour bargaining session resulted in a 10-year agreement that saved the season and should finally give the sport some stability.

The Coyotes hope the labor strife doesn't chip away at the foundation they built last season.

Long an afterthought in the crowded Phoenix sports market, the Coyotes ignited their fan base - and added to it - with their playoff push. Playing a gritty style of hockey with a team-first approach, the desert dogs got their bandwagon rolling downhill with a fantastic February - 23 of a possible 24 points - that led to the franchise's first division title in 33 years of NHL existence.

The Coyotes kept on the throttle by beating Chicago to reach the playoffs' second round for the first time in 25 years, then bumped off Nashville to reach the conference finals for the first time ever.

The Coyotes also found a suitor who could finally end their drawn-out ownership saga.

During Phoenix's playoff series with the Predators, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman showed up at Jobing.com Arena to announce the league had a tentative agreement to sell the team to former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison. The deal was far from done and the team had gone through several new-owner false starts, but it was strong enough to provide hope for a franchise that hadn't had much - at least off the ice - since Jerry Moyes took it into bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Slap shots

• Players will have 36 hours to vote on the new labor deal that would end the four-month lockout. The players' association announced that electronic voting was to begin Thursday at 6 p.m. and will last until Saturday at 6 a.m.

If a majority of the more than 700 players choose to accept the deal that owners unanimously ratified on Wednesday, training camps will open Sunday, and a 48-game regular season will begin Jan. 19.

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