Tough to be a Coyote

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

Two things are guaranteed for a Phoenix Coyotes player: Good weather, and ownership uncertainty.

One minute they’re going to Hamilton, the next they’re destined to return to Winnipeg.

Meanwhile, the players have to do their best to focus on winning games, which can’t be easy when you’re unsure where your future lies.

“This is certainly one distraction that’s kind of hung over their heads the past year. I give them credit, last year they seemed to be able to focus,” said Calgary Flames sport psychologist Dave Paskevich Tuesday, prior to the Flames and Coyotes pre-season tilt at the Saddledome.

“It is challenging. Can you imagine in your own lives if you didn’t know from maybe week to week, month to month, if you were going to be there or not?

“It’s not only for the players, but for the players families, too. It can cause a tremendous amount of stress within the family unit as well.”

Last summer saw the team’s ownership issues taken to court, with Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie trying to move the club to Southern Ontario without the NHL’s permission.

The league won the battle and is still trying to find a buyer who can work out a deal with the city of Glendale to keep the franchise in the desert.

Meanwhile, Coyotes players debate whether to rent or purchase a house to live in, given the uncertainty.

And still, they win.

Fifty times last season — a franchise record.

“The coaching staff and players must have done a very good job of knowing it’s not in their control and just being in the moment,” Paskevich said. “You can’t just say forget about it. That’s ludicrous. You are going to think about it. That’s reality.”

But they had to park their concerns for 60 or more minutes on game days, which couldn’t have been easy.

“Honestly, it’s been very easy,” said defenceman Adrian Aucoin, who joined the team last season after a couple of years with the Flames. “Winning last year was the biggest remedy for it, that’s for sure.

“Donnie (Coyotes GM Don Maloney) put together not just a bunch of good players, but a bunch of good guys. We kind of don’t let a lot of things affect us. We know it’s something we can’t have a handle on, regardless.

“It never even comes up. Last year, we had one meeting early on and that was all we talked about it. A lot of people don’t believe me when I say that, but when you’re rolling and you’re playing good and you’re worrying about the right things, stuff like that doesn’t really make a difference. You just hope for the best.”

Solid players with mental strength, and a calming influence for a coach in Dave Tippett contributed to the unlikely season that ended with a Game 7 loss in a first-round playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings.

Because of the personalities in the Coyotes dressing room, the ownership issues might have even played a part in the underdog success story.

“From a cohesive perspective, it can actually impact positively both on task and social cohesion,” Paskevich said. “When you have an outside pressure, you’re either going to pull together or you’re going to pull apart.

“They did a tremendous job of pulling together last year.”

Even without a mind like Paskevich’s to pick.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


Videos

Photos