After Winnipeg Free Press hockey writers Randy Turner and Gary Lawless took their turns in bashing the city of Phoenix for the Coyotes' recent lack of on-ice success, a lagging fan base and the lack of physical media presence in Winnipeg last week for what basically was a meaningless preseason game, East Valley Tribune hockey columnist Jerry Brown fired right back yesterday.
In his latest "Brownie Points" column, Brown echoed what many people in Arizona have for a long time felt about Canadian fans and media continuously taking vicious shots at Phoenix sports teams and fans.
"And once again, the still-frosted 'Peggers use the occasion to crow about how (1) their beloved Jets were stolen away and (2) Arizona doesn't deserve an NHL team," Brown wrote. "The Valley is a big-time sports area. We have a baseball team in a pennant race, college and NFL football, NBA and NHL. Do you guys get the Super Bowl up there? Check the site this year."
After the Phoenix Coyotes made their second preseason visit to Winnipeg since they relocated from there 11 years ago and lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs before 13,417 fans at MTS Centre, the tension resurfaced between Winnipeg fans and media and their Phoenix counterparts. As expected, heartbroken Jets fans still show their animosity toward the Coyotes for legitimate reasons where they hate the team being in Phoenix instead of staying in their city. There seems to be a similar tone with hockey columnists in Winnipeg as well evident in their very harsh criticisms of the state of the franchise as it stands today. The two biggest (but not only) factors would be a team not winning and disenchanted Coyotes fans staying away in large numbers from a new arena in operation since December 2003. In seeing this, the Canadian media continues to complain about where the Coyotes stand in a crowded sports market.
Toronto Star hockey columnist Damien Cox once again took a shot at Phoenix last night during a regular appearance on The Sports Network's "TSN The Reporters" when the Cox and two other panelists with host Dave Hodge discussed the future of the NHL. When the topic of the upcoming two regular season games in London was brought up, they speculated this may be more than just an experiment. Hodge asked if the NHL may place any teams in Europe one day. What was Cox's response?
"I've sort of have long been in the mind of, what's the point of this? It's just too far away. I'm kind of changing it to the point where, go for it," Cox said. "Be the first to go to Europe and try to do something else. Could it be any worse than Nashville? Or Phoenix? Or some of these other places? Go for it."
Cox's opinions are a welcomed sight to many TSN viewers and Toronto Star readers, but there are times when I have an issue with the basis of some of his statements such as this one.
Until there are tangible results of the Coyotes becoming a more viable franchise and not losing money as they have, there will always be someone, especially north of the border who will be the next to throw a stone at Phoenix. But Brown at least was one columnist that covers the Coyotes who stood up and fired back at the critics. And he had one last statement for Winnipeg to end his column.
"We're keeping the team. Winning will breed interest. So get over it."
Couldn't have been a more blunt statement than that. Phoenix fans can only hope that he's right. Will the Arizona Republic hockey writers do the same? Maybe team representatives or FSN Arizona executives issue their own response, too? Time will tell if that were to happen, but either way even if it doesn't, actions on and off the ice by the Coyotes will speak louder than words spoken from Arizona to Manitoba or anywhere else in Canada.