[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
#1) Shane Doan and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
It started after the December 4th, 2013 game against Calgary. Shane Doan had a strong game, picking up an assist. Everything seemed normal.
He got sick and missed the game the next game versus Vancouver. And the next one against Colorado. The Coyotes were coy at the time saying it was just illness. As the days went on and Doan missed more games; it became clear something was very wrong with the Captain.
Midway through December, the Coyotes announced that Doan was being treated for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a bacterial infection usually caused by a tick bite. It can cause blood vessels to leak and a myriad of other very serious issues. It is rare to catch in Arizona. Doan has many dogs and horses on his Arizona ranch, so the theory is a bite from a tick that had tagged along on one of his many furry friends.
Doan was cleared to play in January of 2014. He came back in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers and looked exhausted after each shift. As the rest of the season started to progress, Doan got stronger with every game; however, he didn’t start feeling like himself again until June of that year.
It’s safe to say, learning about what happened caused a lot of Coyotes fans to start to wonder if the team was cursed, as the next season Mikkel Boedker received a ruptured spleen on a seemingly innocent hit. Anders Lindback won the strange injury award in 2015-16 when he ruptured his Achilles tendon while getting up from stretching before a game.
#2) The Mike Smith Experience
Mike Smith is a strange goalie. He fights, he dives, he scores goals, and he scores goals for other teams.
I have to start with the ‘Butt Goal.’
Coyotes fans yell about this every time someone brings it up. They should have called the play dead as soon as the ref lost sight of the puck. They could have used that extra point. What if, what if, what if. RIP the playoff dreams of 2013-14.
Everything about that play was a comedy of errors. As the Sabres enter the zone, Mike Smith does as Mike Smith is want to do and came out to poke-check the puck. The puck flies up into the air and Martin Hanzal attempts to ‘help.’ In his ‘helping’ he knocks the puck down into the back of Smith’s pants. Everyone scrambles and Smith slides back into the net, not knowing about the puck in his pants. When the whistle blows the Sabres are yelling that it’s in the net and the Coyotes are trying to figure out what happened.
It was the most Coyotes thing to ever happen.
Mike Smith has also banked a puck off of Brandon Sutter’s behind during a game against the Penguins into his own net. He came out to clear the puck during the penalty kill and just as he cleared it, Sutter came into view and Bob’s your uncle. Mike Smith has yet another weird goal to add to his resume. It’s one we’d like to forget, thank you.
He also has the tendency to get himself into the some precarious situations when being hit. From Evander Kane to Alex Edler and most infamously Andrew Shaw, Smith has taken a lot of hits that may not have been entirely on the fault of the skater that hit him. I’m not here to debate which hit was legal and which was not, but sometimes it’s a bit over the top and I’m saying that as a Coyotes fan.
Okay, fine, I’ll say it. Mike Smith is a diving diver who dives. Smith has been known to get touched in the crease and flail dramatically to the ice to get the call.
(If you think he’s the only one, may I introduce you to Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist?)
Smith also has a temper. He is known for smashing his stick…
Stealing and smashing the stick of the guy who poked him too many times…
Or, my favorite variation, when he grabs the guy’s head with his glove hand and tries to remove it.
Smith got into a few fights in his early years with Tampa Bay. He’s passionate, you can give him that, but come on Smitty! Goalie fights are fun until someone gets hurt.
What all Coyotes fans love about Mike Smith is the time he scored a goal against the Detroit Red Wings
Love him or hate him, Smith has gained a lot of love with the Coyotes organization. Only three years left with that contract…
#3) Eight Owners in 20 years: the Coyotes
(Seemingly Never Ending) Saga
The Coyotes have had long … uh, let’s call it … adventurous ownership situations since they moved to Phoenix in 1996.
Jerry Colangelo (then owner of the Phoenix suns), with two local businessmen Steven Gluckstern and Richard Burke, and a local investor group, bought the Winnipeg Jets in December of 1995. The Winnipeg franchise was moved to their new home in Arizona.
In 1998 minority owner Richard Burke bought out Steven Gluckstern, but could never find any investor groups who wanted to invest in the Coyotes. This was the just start of the ownership and financial issues with the Coyotes.
Burke sold the team in 2001 to Steve Ellman, a Phoenix-area developer, and with Wayne Gretzky as part-owner and head of hockey operations. The team played America West Arena.
America West had a major obstructed view area in the upper level when hockey was being played (sound familiar, Islander fans?). You couldn’t see a third of the ice and one of the nets . They called that area the Dog House. The team sold tickets on the cheap and sometimes had bands that played in the area at intermission.
Ellman brought the Coyotes to Glendale when America West would not fix the sight lines for hockey.
With the team out in Glendale in 2003, and the 2004-05 lockout happening, the Coyotes were still in financial trouble and the team was sold again. Ellman sold the Coyotes, the Arizona Sting (you know, that professional lacrosse team that everyone forget ever existed) and the lease to the arena to a trucking magnate, Jerry Moyes in 2005.
During the Moyes-era, the Coyotes were in a bit of a flux. Wayne Gretzky became their coach, the front office was full of Gretzky’s people and it was just not a good time for the history of the franchise on ice. The Coyotes kept on going though, until some news shook the hockey world.
In 2008, financially the team was at rock bottom; Moyes needed the league to pay the bills because he didn’t have the funds to keep the team going. In 2009, hours before the Commissioner was going to have the owner of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox Jerry Reinsdorf present an offer to Moyes to attempt to purchase the team, Moyes put the Coyotes into bankruptcy.
The NHL got very angry. Moyes was going to sell the team to Blackberry guru Jim Balsillie, who wanted to buy the team from bankruptcy and move them to Hamilton, Ontario. For months the most important place for the Coyotes was United States Bankruptcy Court, where the NHL argued granting Balsillie the team would allow him and Moyes to make an end-run around the league’s ability to control the location of its franchises.
The NHL won, stepped in and took over the franchise at that point. They had already been paying the bills. From all accounts, Gary Bettman will let Arizona move from this market over his cold dead body.
This brings us to the summer of 2013.
Ice Arizona LLC comes to the plate to buy the Coyotes. But there is one major step in the way. The City of Glendale and a lease agreement. At the eleventh hour, the city agreed on a 15 year agreement with a five year out-clause if the team, and Ice Arizona, finalized the purchase of the team in August of that year.
Coyotes fans rejoiced, because surely that would be the last time they would ever have to talk about Glendale again, right?
The large group of owners were a breath of fresh air to the fans and the franchise. That first year they introduced tailgating and actually had a handle on the marketing. Anthony LeBlanc has become a face of the ownership group, wildly popular with fans. (Take that, Jeremy Jacobs!)
After one year of the new lease agreement the City of Glendale terminated it on grounds of breaches of the terms.
This was a massive blow to the ownership and already tense relationship with the city. Things were eventually calmed (kind of) and a new two year deal made.
Since the new ownership group has taken over, the team has been able to spend more on actual players, improve the arena and genuinely care about the fans and their experience. After having eight owners in the 20 years of the franchise, the fanbase will be happy to have steady ownership. It’s nice to have owners that actually want the team, and are committed to hockey in Arizona for the long run.
#4) Pierre The Fanatical Hockey Fan
Let me introduce you to Pierre.
No no, not him. That’s a whole other fanatical hockey loving Pierre and a subject for a whole other post.
THIS IS PIERRE!
Pierre the Fanatical Hockey Fan Snowman! No, really guys. He existed.
Enjoy this video of Ilya Bryzgalov interacting with him.
In 2008, The Coyotes apparently thought this was a brilliant way to:
A) get the town to know their up and coming stars (Kyle Turris! Viktor Tikhonov! Kevin Porter! Mikkel Boedker!) and their coaching staff! Yes, even Wayne Gretzky had to do one of these!
B) Talk politics?
Or C) That this is the Coyotes way of trolling Quebec City and the Quebecois media by having an overly eager hockey loving snowman in Arizona.
(Is the snow made from salty tears? Maybe. No one will ever know).
The crew at Five For Howling thinks he was either Jerry Moyes last ditch attempt for the team to start gaining fan interest, or they just had a very bad marketing company working for them.
Either way, no one can give me the real story behind Pierre but wow, he’s creepy. Or as a friend of mine said, “Pierre kinda looks like he belongs as a villain in some weird hockey-themed Christmas story.”
I think she has a point.
#5) Weird goal club in a forgettable season.
During the Terrible, No Good (™) season of 2014-15, the Coyotes played a heavy game against the Ducks that ended up going into overtime and full shootout. You knew the game is going to be a bit strange when the only regulation goal for the Coyotes is scored by Zbynek Michalek as Sam Gagner does a single axle in front of Frederick Andersen.
It was that sort of night.
The scoring tallies came a minute and a half a part in the first period and after that both goalies were brick walls. Devan Dubnyk and Andersen put on an amazing goalie duel and that went into overtime and lead to the shootout.
Shane Doan is the fourth shooter for the Coyotes and he comes down on Andersen. As he releases the puck the blade of his stick breaks. Andersen tries to make the save on the blade of the stick and the puck goes into the back of the net.
I was at the game and everyone was trying to figure out what happened. Doan’s reaction was the best part of the goal because even he didn’t know how it went in.
And this gem came out of a game during the Coyotes eight game losing streak. The Coyotes were playing the Toronto Maple Leafs that January night and the Leafs goalie had been a complete and utter brick wall. With the game being in Toronto there is about a 30 second delay between the tweets coming from the ACC and the television feed in Arizona. Look away now if you are a Leafs fan, or you’ll end up like this guy.
As the third period began, I started to see a lot of ‘…’ tweets and a few ‘what just happened…’ then we saw it.
Yeah, that’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson being Oliver Ekman-Awesome with a 114 foot shot from the opposite blue line past Jonathan Bernier while the Coyotes are on the penalty kill.
I know, right?
I like to watch other team’s feeds after the fact to see what they’re saying about the Coyotes and their players. Right as the period started they were talking about how economical Bernier had been playing when the goal happened. It also happened to be the fastest short-handed goal to start a third period ever.
It’s safe to say, this was one of the major highlights for the Coyotes and I know it’s a low low low light for the Leafs but hey, they have (Arizona-native) Auston Matthews now.
We can have this.
Please, please let us have this.
Previous Weird NHL Posts: Anaheim
– – – – – – –
About the author: Sarah Hall is an editorial and commentary writer for SB Nation’s Five For Howling. She is four years into what seems like a lifetime commitment as a fan to the Arizona Coyotes. She co-hosts a hockey podcast called AZ Den Talk. You can follow her on Twitter: @sarahhowling.