GLENDALE, Ariz.— These days, the only people in Phoenix more miserable than the Coyotes — down 3-0 to the Detroit Red Wings in their first round playoff series — are the hockey fans.
The team is struggling, what seemed to be a marriage-made-in-heaven with potential owner Matthew Hulsizer is falling apart, and the hockey world seems to be rooting against them and for a return of the franchise to Winnipeg.
"We haven't missed a game in six years," said 17-year-old Abby Mischaud, gesturing to her family. "We don't know what we'd do if they left."
The Goldwater Institute, an Arizona policy think tank, continues to challenge the constitutionality of a proposed deal that would make an agreement between Hulsizer and the NHL feasible.
From the general tone around Jobing.com Arena, it sounds like season ticket holders in Arizona want the entire Goldwater Institute to bathe in kerosene and sprint into a nearby fire. They badly want the team to stay, and they resent Goldwater with that same passion.
As Game Three of their best-of-seven with Detroit slipped away last night, fan sentiment along Glendale's Vegas-esque Westgate Plaza slipped from chants and positive energy to outwardly displaying their bitterness towards the situation.
"Walk up and down Westgate before any Coyotes game" said season ticket holder Anthony Manna (who's already re-upped for the 2011-2012 season). "Every pub, bar, and restaurant in the Plaza is jammed. You don't think it would hurt the bottom lines and more importantly, the employment of people in this city if they lost 41 events at Jobing.com every year?"
Fans are left to grasp at straws — some with outlandish suggestions that members within the Goldwater Institute have personal reasons to want the franchise in Winnipeg; or, worse, a few have less-than-subtly implied that the group has been bribed by officials from Manitoba.
Coyotes players know they're forced to put that (dreaded) smiley face on things, but for now, Winnipeg is still a swear word in the locker room. Their focus is on the task at hand, as the clichés go, and they can't control anything beyond that.
The fans' last hope, it seemed, was that this team would provide the plot of feel-good Disney movie (or more accurately, the plot of "Major League") by putting together a solid playoff run and building support to keep the team in Arizona.
"The longer they play, the more time the city has to get something done. It's that simple," said Jeff Morgan, 31, who splits season tickets with his brother.
But the deal with Hulsizer seems to be at a standstill, which seems to be the birthplace of the theory that prolonging the season would be beneficial to the business side of things. The more games and series the Phoenix Coyotes win, the more money that comes to Glendale, which wouldn't hurt either.
In reality, it's a far-fetched dream.
As simple as it would be to understand and root for, the Coyotes' long-term future doesn't depend on their playoff success, as much as fans want that to be the case.
But they're still justifiably angry — the mockery from people who've never been to a game here, the struggles in Round 1 against the Detroit Red Wings, the lack of post-season success and the looming move have all made the place a buzzing beehive of something on the verge of hostility.
The general tone here seems to be "we got jobbed."
As fans and players of the Coyotes wake up in Arizona today with their team down 3-0, it's likely going to be a similar feeling of frustration.
There's no lack of want, there's no lack of try, but sometimes you just don't get the bounces.
The season — and the franchise — is slipping away, and Coyotes fans are rightly fed up.