Throughout the year, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the National Hockey League (NHL), discovering the best and worst each team has to offer in a variety of subjects. We will also feature a drink based off the franchise. Today, we venture to the hotbed of hockey that is Arizona. While checking out the Coyotes operation, we must be mindful of the franchise’s past in Winnipeg as the first incarnation of the Jets:
Establishment Story: On July 1, 1996, the Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes, moving their operations from the frozen tundra to the desert. The original plan was to relocate to Minneaplos-St. Paul, but the new owners couldn’t arrange an arena lease, so Phoenix became the destination. A fan vote was conducted to name the team, with Coyotes being the winner over Scorpions.
Stanley Cups: The Jets/Coyotes franchise has never appeared in a Stanley Cup Final (the oldest team to have not made the Finals), let alone won the championship. The deepest the team has ever gone in the playoffs was the Western Conference Finals in 2012. It should be noted, the Jets were extremely successful during their stint in the World Hockey Association (WHA), winning the Avco Cup three times during the league’s seven seasons of existence.
Celebrity Fan: The ‘Godfather of Shock Rock’ Alice Cooper has long been a fan of the Coyotes, being an Arizona native since he was a teenager. The team has even given away Alice Cooper bobbleheads as a fan promotion in 2012. Cooper can often be spotted at games or rocking the classic Kachina-style jersey. Goalie Mike Smith even had Cooper painted on the back of his helmet in 2015.
Super Fan: Any supporter of the Coyotes has to be considered a super fan, no? Seriously, though, Leighton Accardo was a 9-year-old Coyotes supporter who sadly lost her 18-month battle with cancer in late 2020. Prior to passing, Accardo played youth hockey in the Arizona Kachinas program and was signed to a one-day contract by the Coyotes. On that night, rather than drop the puck for the ceremonial face-off, the youngster actually took the draw.
Mascot: Howler the Coyote (full name Canis Howlus Maximus) debuted in 2005. He wears jersey number 96, representing the year the team arrived in Arizona. Also, rather than have a captain’s ‘C’ on his jersey, Howler has the letter ‘M’ for mascot. Howler is best known for being a great drummer, joining area bands during Coyotes Foundation charity events.
Tradition: The White Out began as a Jets ritual, but carried over to Phoenix when the franchise relocated. It began in 1987 to counter the Calgary Flames ‘C of Red’, as the Jets were facing the Flames in the playoffs that season. Winnipeg swept the series and fans hoped the White Out would continue to bring good luck. In Arizona, lyrics to the Wang Chung song “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” have been altered to “Everybody wear white tonight” in marketing campaigns.
Appearances in Media: There are a couple documentaries feature footage of the original Jets. This includes Sel8nne, about the career of Teemu Selanne, and Death by Popcorn: The Tragedy of the Winnipeg Jets, covering the rise and fall of that franchise. The title comes from an incident in the 1990 playoffs, when the Jets were on the verge of finally defeating the Edmonton Oilers, until a fan threw popcorn on the ice, causing a long delay and changing the momentum of the game and series in the Oilers favour.
Events/Scandals: When the Coyotes selected Mitchell Miller in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, they didn’t realize the firestorm they were about to set off. According to a report weeks later in The Arizona Republic, Miller had been found guilty in 2016 of repeatedly bullying a developmentally disabled African American classmate. The Coyotes renounced the draft pick as a result.
Rivalry: Aside from brief flirtations with rivalries, the Coyotes greatest battle seems to be against financial stability. For a time, the Coyotes most hated opponents were the Los Angeles Kings, based on their heated 2012 Western Conference Final series. When the franchise was based in Winnipeg, perennial Smythe Division leaders the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames provided the team with many great clashes.
Tragedy: While playing with the Tucson Roadrunners (the Coyotes minor league affiliate), captain Craig Cunningham suffered a cardiac arrest prior to puck drop on November 19, 2016. It took 83 minutes of CPR to keep Cunningham alive. Due to the incident, Cunningham’s lower left leg had to be amputated because of an infection that followed circulation issues. No longer able to play, Cunningham was offered a pro scout position with the Coyotes.
Player Nicknames: The Coyotes greatest legacy on the game of hockey may be some of the nicknames the team has been responsible for over the Arizona/Winnipeg existence. Some include Finnish Flash (Teemu Selanne), Bulin Wall (goalie Nikolai Khabibulin) and BizNasty (Paul Bissonnette). A few others to be considered include Ducky (Dale Hawerchuk), Rhino (Zac Rinaldo), Goose (Alex Goligoski) and Stinky (Christian Fischer).
Line: When superstar Bobby Hull was joined by European imports Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson to form the Hot Line, the unit dominated the WHA. They played together for four seasons, winning two Avco Cups, before both Hedberg and Nilsson joined the NHL’s New York Rangers. Perhaps the greatest compliment of the trio came from Edmonton Oilers GM Glen Sather, who said he used the Hot Line as a template for building his 1980s dynasty teams.
Captain: Shane Doan spent his entire career as a member of the Coyotes. For 13 of those 21 seasons, he served as the team’s captain. At the time Doan retired in 2017, he was the longest-serving captain in the NHL, providing the Coyotes franchise with some semblance of stability amongst all their other issues. Doan’s jersey was retired by the team in 2019. He recorded 402 goals and 972 points over 1,540 games with the club, all franchise records.
Enforcer: Kris King’s tenure with the franchise spanned both the Winnipeg and Phoenix incarnations of the team. Originally brought in to provide protection for the likes of Teemu Selanne and Keith Tkachuk, the ‘King of Pain’ recorded 762 penalty minutes and 71 fighting majors over his five seasons with the club. King was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 1996, given to an NHL player who has made significant contributions to their community.
Family Values: From 1993 to 1996, brothers Darryl and Darrin Shannon played together for the Jets. Coyote lifer Shane Doan had the pleasure of being part of the team’s draft table when they selected his son, Josh Doan, 37th overall in 2021. Josh was born and raised in Arizona, as his father played two decades with the franchise. Brothers Philip and Henrik Samuelsson were members of the organization at the same time, while dad Ulf was a former assistant coach.
Returning Players: Radim Vrbata had three tenures with the Coyotes. He first played for the club for the 2007-08 season. He split the next campaign between the Tampa Bay Lightning and two teams in the Czech Extraliga, before returning to the Coyotes for five seasons. After a two-year stint with the Vancouver Canucks, Vrbata once again called Arizona home for a year. He finished his career with the Florida Panthers, retiring in 2018.
Short Stint: Coming out of the 2004-05 NHL lockout, legendary scorer Brett Hull joined the Coyotes. His dad’s #9 jersey (retired when the team was in Winnipeg) was unretired, allowing him to wear it. However, just five games into the season, Hull believed he could no longer play at the level he expected of himself and abruptly retired. He had recorded only one assist in those contests.
Undrafted: Winger Doug Smail signed with the Jets in 1980, following three years at the University of North Dakota. He remained with the team for 11 seasons and holds a couple interesting records, including the franchise mark for shorthanded goals (25), while sharing the NHL record with three others for fastest goal to start a game (five seconds). He was also the first player to ever join the U.K.’s Elite Ice Hockey League directly from the NHL.
Trade: It was tough to lose the face of their franchise, but at the 1990 NHL Draft, the Jets granted Dale Hawerchuk’s trade request, sending him to the Buffalo Sabres with a first-round draft choice. In return, the Jets received all-star defenseman Phil Housley, Scott Arniel, Jeff Parker and a first-round pick, used to select future star Keith Tkachuk. Another good move was acquiring Jeremy Roenick from the Chicago Blackhawks in 1996 for a package of assets. Roenick was a splashy move for the team’s Phoenix debut.
Signing: When Mike Smith joined the Coyotes in 2011 on a very reasonable two-year, $4 million deal, he instantly legitimized the team’s goaltending. With Smith in net, the franchise won its first playoff series since 1987 and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever. Smith’s success also came on offense, as he scored a rare goalie goal on October 19, 2013.
Draft Pick: Despite a long history of poor performances, the Coyotes have never held a draft pick better than third overall. The Jets selected first overall once, in 1981, taking future Hall of Fame member Dale Hawerchuk. Perhaps the franchise’s greatest pick of all-time was Teemu Selanne (10th overall in 1988), while their diamond in the rough find would be Nikolai Khabibulin (204th overall in 1992).
Holdouts: Nikolai Khabibulin’s contract impasse with the Coyotes, following the 1998-99 season, resulted in the goalie missing almost two full years of NHL action. Khabibulin would finally be traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 5, 2001, suiting up for the team twice before the end of the year. The move worked out well for Khabibulin, as the Lightning won the 2004 Stanley Cup, with him in the crease.
Buyouts: Mike Ribeiro’s time with the Coyotes was brief. Coming off a season where he scored a point per game with the Washington Capitals, Ribeiro signed a four-year, $22 million contract with the Coyotes in 2013. Following a single season, Ribeiro was bought out due to behavioural issues, related to alcohol use. Arizona paid Ribeiro $11,666,667 to not play for them, while the forward signed on with the Nashville Predators.
Unique Game: For a 2006 pre-season game, the Coyotes returned to where it all began, playing the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, 10 years after the Jets relocation to Phoenix. The Coyotes also opened the 2010 season with a pair of contests against the Boston Bruins in Prague, Czechia. Finally, there has been talk of the Coyotes playing an outdoor game in Mexico, which would be the first time NHL action has ever taken place in the country.
Goal: On March 2, 1993, Teemu Selanne surpassed Mike Bossy’s rookie scoring record of 53, with a goal against the Quebec Nordiques. The tally was made even more memorable thanks to Selanne’s celebration of throwing his glove into the air and using his stick as a gun to shoot it down. Selanne would finish the season with an incredible 76 goals and 132 points (also a NHL record), en route to being named the NHL’s top rookie, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Fight/Brawl: An October 11, 1985 bench clearing brawl between the Jets and Calgary Flames is memorable for a couple reasons. The second period skirmish resulted in six game ejections, including Jets assistant coach Rick Bowness, who took a swipe at Flames enforcer Tim Hunter, the player thought to ignite the melee. Also ejected was Flames backup goalie Mark D’Amour, who was dressing in his first NHL game.
Injury: Coyotes star Clayton Keller had his 2021-22 season ended early when he crashed into the boards, fracturing his leg. A stretcher was needed to remove Keller from the ice, followed by surgery. Another notable injury was Jeremy Roenick having his jaw broken in 1999 by Derian Hatcher of the Dallas Stars. The blatant elbow was retribution for Roenick hitting Dallas superstar Mike Modano in the teams previous encounter. Hatcher was suspended seven games for the incident.
Penalty: Jets tough guy Jimmy Mann was coming off a three-game suspension a month earlier for pushing a linesman, when on January 13, 1982, he left the bench and sucker punched Paul Gardner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, breaking his jaw. The attack was in retaliation for Gardner injuring a teammate just prior. For this offense, Mann was suspended for 10 games, along with being charged with assault causing bodily harm in Manitoba court. Mann pled guilty, receiving a maximum $500 fine.
Wildest Story: On December 8, 2021, it was announced the Coyotes owed $1.3 million in back taxes and they would be locked out of the Gila River Arena if the money was not paid by December 20, 2021. This was the last straw in their lease agreement with the City of Glendale and the Coyotes were forced to find a new home for the 2022-23 season, eventually coming to terms with Arizona State University to play out of their 5,000 seat Mullett Arena.
Blooper: Mike Smith was one of the best goalies in franchise history, but he is also remembered for one of the most bizarre own goals fans have ever seen. During a December 2013 game against the Buffalo Sabres, the puck launched into the air, coming down and getting stuck in the back of Smith’s gear. Smith, losing sight of the puck, backed into his own net. The tally is known today as the ‘Butt Goal’ and worst of all, it occurred in overtime, giving the Sabres the win.
Miscellaneous: During the 2003-04 season, netminder Brian Boucher recorded five consecutive shutouts, with a shutout streak of 332:01, setting modern day NHL records for both stats. The previous records belonged to Gary Durnan, who earned four consecutive shutouts and a streak of 309:21 playing for the Montreal Canadiens in 1949. The all-time records date back to the 1927-28 season, when Ottawa Senators goalie Alec Connell had six consecutive shutouts and a streak of 460:49.
Arizona Coyotes: Coyote on the Rocks
- 1.5 oz Tequila
- Top with Grapefruit Juice
- Splash of Grenadine
- Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry
This beverage is similar to a Paloma, which is among the Sip Advisor’s favourite cocktails. Some differences include the addition of grenadine and no salt for the drink’s rim. I like the double entendre this recipe conjures, as you can imagine a coyote resting on rocks or it could just be the ice filling your glass.