Winnipeg forbidden topic in Coyotes locker room

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:42 PM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Officially, it’s a forbidden topic on game days.

But that doesn’t mean members of the Phoenix Coyotes aren’t interested in discussing the latest news surrounding the franchise’s future.

Even if it has become something of a running joke.

“What’s happening with the owner?” Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov asked out loud during the team’s media availability, Tuesday morning.

“We should know in two weeks,” was the tongue-in-cheek answer from a Coyotes staffer.

That’s as close as reporters can get to actually having a conversation about a possible move to Winnipeg with a player or coach the day of a game.

Head coach Dave Tippett and GM Don Maloney early this season instituted a policy forbidding discussion of the issue as long as there’s a game at hand.

Tuesday night’s tilt with Western Conference rival Dallas was critical to the playoff race, only magnifying the need to block out distractions.

“They initiated a policy where we only talk hockey on game days,” Coyotes’ senior director of media relations Rich Nairn explained. “We don’t want to be difficult in any way. But people understand the situation, that hockey is the No. 1 focus, and off days are the time to discuss this issue.”

Even on off days, the Coyotes don’t want many players bombarded with questions about Winnipeg.

Team captain Shane Doan, the longest-serving member of the Coyotes who was also with the franchise back in Winnipeg, will be made available, but beyond that, there are no guarantees.

Not that there are dozens of requests every week.

“We haven’t had a ton of media requests from Winnipeg or Canada,” Nairn said. “The U.S. media isn’t really that concerned about the issue.”

Management’s strategy appears to be working, as the Coyotes had a hold, albeit tenuous, on fourth place in the West, going into last night.

A well-coached, blue-collar bunch with strong goaltending from Bryzgalov, Phoenix had 93 points (41-25-11), with an impressive 22-12-5 road record.

Its leading scorer was defenceman Keith Yandle (11-47-58), with Doan next at 18-38-56.

A total of 10 Coyotes have reached double digits in goals, Doan, Radim Vrbata and the injured Lauri Korpikoski leading the way with 18, each.


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