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It's 'Hockey Night' in Phoenix

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, ARIZ. -- The Phoenix Coyotes finally know where they are headed. You'll never guess where.

All aboard for the playoffs?

Finally, all the talk is not about relocation. It's about resurrection. Finally, the best story in the NHL this season is getting noticed in its own hometown.
On the same day the Coyotes announced that playoff tickets would go on sale, Saturday's game with the Chicago Blackhawks – two of the top three teams in the Western Conference -- was the third sellout of the year. And this wasn't a paper-the-house season opener or a winter visit from the Arizona-beloved Detroit Red Wings.

Sure, it helps that the Valley is full of Chicagoans in town for the Cubs and White Sox for spring training. But it's a paying-customer, Coyote-laden sellout.

"Saturday night, full house, huge game, it's hockey night in Arizona," said Lee Lovell of Chandler, Ariz., proudly sporting his two-week -old Wojtek Wolski Coyotes jersey. "( Arena) is loud when it's half-full. Tonight is going to be wild."

After winning seven straight games and rallying for 3-0 down in the third period to beat the Panthers in Florida on Thursday, the Coyotes are within three points of the Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks for the conference lead. All five local television stations were at Friday's practice, along with wire services, sports networks and other national hockey media.

The NHL Network (U.S.) added the game to its schedule. The Coyotes, who normally don't have a second man in the radio booth when analyst Tyson Nash is doing television, pressed the injured Scottie Upshall into service.

Just as importantly, the Coyotes signed a new advertising deal with a beer sponsor within the last week, and the new signage was prevalent around the building Saturday.

"We've gotten so many ticket requests and the great news is I can't fill them," Coyotes president Doug Moss said. "It's a great problem to have. We're excited about this team and the marketplace is responding. We're not there yet, but now we know that the phone in the office actually take calls, they don't just send them out."

Coyotes goalie coach Sean Burke was between the pipes in 2002, the last time the Coyotes made the playoffs back in the view-obstructed days of then-America West Arena. He remembers when the city was excited about the game and the team and is seeing the surge return.

"The building is full. People are talking about the team we're building (going) to the playoffs. It's exciting," Burke said. "It’s a real team that wins as a team and does it the right way. And now they are getting noticed for it."

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