That realization came to me with great clarity this morning as I replayed the events of the past few days in my mind.
First and foremost, the Coyotes continued to play well over the extended weekend with home wins over Calgary on Thursday and the New York Rangers on Saturday. They capped the weekend with an impressive 4-2 victory at Dallas on Sunday. With 26 games to go, they’ve already earned 71 points.
And yes, the news about Scottie Upshall’s knee injury is not good. His energy, goal-scoring skills and goal-scoring celebrations will definitely be missed. But the beauty of this team is that it has been built around the concept of a “pack mentality” and other players already have stepped up in his absence. Peter Mueller, for instance, took Upshall’s place on a line with Shane Doan
and Matthew Lombardi on Sunday and played his best game of the season. He notched a goal and two assists and wowed Head Coach Dave Tippett with his all-around game.
|Teppo Numminen |
Sunday’s win was Phoenix’s fourth in a row, and a buzz around this team is building. The near-sellout crowd at Saturday’s game against the Rangers is proof of that. The fans clearly are into this team and its future. The fans also proved they are into this team’s past. I’ve been reading various message boards over the past few days and there are plenty of discussions taking place about the ceremony that was staged for former captain Teppo Numminen before Saturday’s game and how touching it was to see his genuine joy as he joined the Team’s Ring of Honor. I thought ceremony emcee Todd Walsh did an outstanding job of telling Numminen’s story and underlining his impact on this franchise.
• Click here
to watch the retrospective of Numminen's career played during the ceremony.
Of course Saturday’s game was a big part of the 24 Hours of Hockey event the Coyotes hosted once again this year. Sixteen hockey games, starting with the Coyotes vs. Rangers at 6 p.m., were played consecutively inside Jobing.com Arena until the event ended at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
I’m told a total of 150 goals were scored.
“It was a lot of fun,” Scott Storkan, the team’s Manager of Hockey Development, told me. “About 450 kids and adults were able to experience what it’s like to play a hockey game in an NHL arena. You could tell the players were really into it and enjoying themselves.”
The Coyotes are the only NHL to stage such an event. I encourage the players who played this year to come back again next year, and I also encourage those players who have yet to attend this event to give it a shot in 2011.
And if all this wasn’t enough, word came out today that Coyotes captain Shane Doan
was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week for last week. Doan notched three goals and six assists in four games, all while mulling the upcoming fantasy baseball season. Congratulations Shane.
Looking ahead, the Coyotes play three games this week, all on the road. I encourage fans to stay connected via phoenixcoyotes.com and through our TV and radio broadcasts. I am convinced things are only going to get more exciting as this season moves forward. Aren’t you?
Thanks for reading.