GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ashley Clements should be the perfect Phoenix Coyotes fan.
Originally from Vancouver, Wash., Clements is admittedly a huge hockey fan, having cheered for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks while growing up.
“I’m a hockey fan, just not a Coyotes fan,” she said while walking through the shops of the Westgate City Centre mall outside the home of the Coyotes. “I’m not a big NHL follower. I’ve gone to one Coyotes game, but I was cheering for the Colorado Avalanche.”
It was a Coyotes game night Thursday, but you wouldn’t know it while walking among the collection of shops and restaurants at the outdoor mall a couple of hours before puck drop.
It would be easier to assume the local squad is the Calgary Flames, with all the Flaming C sweaters on display.
The first person spotted with a Coyotes shirt admitted she’s a Sharks fan and in town to support her beloved San Francisco Giants, who hold spring training in Scottsdale, before going on her way.
Sure, the Coyotes have their supporters, and are well aware their team could be leaving the desert for somewhere else — such as Winnipeg — if the franchise’s ownership mess isn’t solved, but you won’t find the outcry which took place when the Winnipeg Jets were on the verge of leaving Manitoba back in 1996.
“I’d be sad. Disappointed,” said Colby Stewart, who was wearing a Coyotes jersey from their first few seasons. “People say it’s a far drive to get here, but we live in Fountain Hills (which is northeast of Scottsdale) and we make it because we’re fans.”
Unfortunately, there are too few of those fans, with the club’s attendance in tatters because of so many years of instability off the ice and poor teams on it.
Josh Peterson, who was walking around Clements, should be among the faithful, but isn’t.
“I don’t watch hockey. It’s not that interesting to me,” he said. “I went to one game when I was in the fifth grade, and it was boring.
“I liked when the lacrosse was here.”
But what about the snow birds? Aren’t all those who come from cold-weather climates supposed to give the team a better fan base.
“There are a lot of Canadians at our park and they like to go to the game,” said Ken Radenz, who is from Minot, ND and spending his winter in the warmth. “We’re here because we won tickets, but it’s the first game we’ve gone to.”
When asked whether he expected to become hooked after the game, Radenz — who said he’d gone to games in Estevan, Sask., years ago, replied, “No.”
There’s a reason the city of Glendale is working feverishly to save the team. If the Coyotes move away, they’d be stuck with a arena, plus a development around it.
“What would happen to this place?” rhetorically asked Shelbie Kwartler. “It would hurt all these businesses.”