The bitterness goes both ways, as Tippett mentioned the Goldwater Institute's intervention in the failed Hulsizer deal in a recent conference call with reporters, saying there have been fewer such franchise financial "distractions" for the team this year than last.

"There was a lot of stuff going on," Tippett said. "I think ultimately what's happened is we've become very hardened to it. Our group [of players] has used this as a motivating factor, not a crutch. This year, [financial uncertainty] seemed less infectious on us."

Bettman said he hoped the new deal to sell the team to Jamison would be finalized in coming weeks, but between the Glendale City Council and the lurking Goldwater Institute, there could be obstacles.

Smith’s been the star of the Coyotes’ playoff run.
Todd K. Orol/Reuters/Newscom
Smith’s been the star of the Coyotes’ playoff run.


Even though only an opening loss was in the books as this issue went to press, the Valley's suddenly rabid hockey fans are longing for the sweet image of Coyotes captain Shane Doan planting his lips on Lord Stanley's Cup.

Coach Tippett and his men, though, weren't interested in talking about anything beyond game two in the locker room after the loss in game one

"It's one game at a time," center Antoine Vermette said after the game. "It's cliché, but we're going to start with the next one and go from there."

Vermette, who leads the Coyotes in goals this postseason, was optimistic that the team, despite its finals inexperience, can come out of the hole it's in. After all, the Coyotes have been pulling out wins all season.

Mike Smith — who's preventing goals with his glove, stick, pads, skates, and anything else he can throw in front of a puck — is the primary reason.

During the playoff series against the Blackhawks, the do-or-die goalie lost the glove from his left hand, and as a slapshot came in, attempted to save the puck with his bare paw. Luckily, the shot went high, or he could have been sidelined with an injury.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call before the start of the series against the Kings, Shane Doan was asked whether the Coyotes would be where they are now without Smith's play.

"No," Doan replied. "No way!"

Doan said it with a laugh, but it was a nervous laugh, not one that suggested he wasn't serious.

Among starting NHL goalies, Smith had the highest save percentage this year, tied with the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. Smith has stopped 93 percent of the pucks that have come at him.

Smith's among just three goaltenders in the league who stopped more than 1,900 shots this season, and he's tied for third in shutout games with eight.

Smith and Lundqvist are the only NHL goalies to record two shutouts this postseason, and if Smith can manage a third — or more — his teammates will be, naturally, thrilled.

Only the Kings' Quick has a higher save percentage than Smith among the remaining goaltenders in the playoffs, and it's not by much — a tenth of 1 percent going into game two of the conference finals.

Whether Smith and the Coyotes can defeat Quick and the Kings remains to be seen — as does the fate of the team.

Would a series loss to the Kings still register as a successful season to Valley residents who, until lately, knew zilch about a pro sport played on ice in a place with white-hot summers? Would even the Stanley Cup itself be enough to make Phoenix a hockey town?

Commissioner Gary Bettman and new Yotes principal owner Greg Jamison are banking on it — literally.

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