Incredible? Strange? Peculiar? Phoenix Coyotes forward Shane Doan settled on “unique” to describe Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets here in Phoenix.
Doan was a first-round draft pick by the Jets in 1995, just months before the team moved to Phoenix.
“It’s unique, I never asked to be traded and never have been traded, so this is something unique,” Doan said today after practising at the Jobing.com arena. “But it’s two totally different organizations.”
When told as many as 2,500 Winnipeggers are expected to be at the game, Doan joked: “There’s usually at least 2,500 people in the building from Canada here. They’ll be enthusiastic.”
The game is the home opener for the Coyotes, who are coming off a win in Nashville Thursday and are 1-1-1. The Jets have yet to win in their first two games.
Coyotes defenceman Adrian Aucoin said he envied the Winnipeg players for having stable, wealthy owners.
“I’m envious of Winnipeg in that aspect for sure,” Aucoin said.
“It’s a big deal in pro sports. Any athlete that you talk to, obviously their initial goal is just to make it to the league and then once they kind of figure it out their goal is to play for a team that really wants to take a run at a championship. And you want to know that your owners are willing to go that extra mile.”
Aucoin said the Coyotes have become largely numb to the ongoing ownership saga surrounding the team, which is far from over. The NHL owns the club and is looking for an owner. Two groups have come forward, but one is led by Chicago businessman Jerry Reinsdorf who has tried and failed to buy the club before. The NHL wants the team to remain in Phoenix but the league could move the club if no local owner is found.
Aucoin hopes the club will stay.
“I love it here. We don’t have the biggest fan base but the fans that we do have are really good. I think if we can get an owner, that's going to be a real positive thing for our team. I think a lot of fans will come back and I think we’ll have a lot of new fans.”
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Saturday's game will be intriguing, give that there was talk the Coyotes could be headed back to Manitoba before the Atlanta Thrashers ultimately moved to Winnipeg last May.
“Obviously all the talk of Winnipeg around here last year and the history with team being in Winnipeg, it puts some extra intrigue to the game,” he said. He added that the Coyotes have a bit of an edge as far as figuring out the Jets. Assistant coach John Anderson spent 13 years in the Thrashers organization and coached many of the Jet players at one point.