"Save the [Phoenix] Coyotes" Rally Draws Canadian Media and Fans; Protestors Unhappy with Local Coverage

For a slide show from Saturday's rally, click here.

Chants of "Let's go Coy-otes!" and "Stay away Canada!" filled the air as about 200 Valley ice hockey fans in white rallied to show their support for keeping the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale.

The surprise wasn't so much that the much-vaunted "Destroy your BlackBerry!" protest didn't happen (and if one did get smashed, it was such a non-event that nobody at the rally noticed), but that the Canadian media and hockey fans were out en masse on Saturday. Turns out, the Valley's got a lot of Canadian transplants who want to keep the Coyotes here.

The turnout for the "2009 Save the Coyotes White-Out Rally" was better than expected, said Travis Harr of the Save the Coyotes Coalition, which organized the rally. "The media was saying we'd be lucky to get 50 people," he said. "But we've got plenty of people here."

Among the people at the rally, which took place at the Native New Yorker restaurant across from Westgate, was Valley resident John Scott, who wore a Winnipeg Jets jersey (the Jets became the Coyotes in 1996, after a series of financial troubles). "I just wanted to show respect for where the White-Out came from. The White-Out did not start in Arizona," Scott said. "And I also wore this jersey as a reminder that we must learn from the past or we're doomed to repeat it. It happened in Winnipeg, it can happen here."

Many fans at the rally were spirited and outspoken in front of the cameras. One Coyotes season ticket holder named Bill Morrison was interviewed at length by Canada's CTV Television Network, and was very critical of prospective Coyotes buyer and BlackBerry CEO Jim Balsillie. "He doesn't care about hockey," asserted Morrison, who is from Canada and also a former hockey coach. "He wants his own team, and he'll do anything to get it."

Morrison was also critical of the local media. "We get more coverage from the Canadian networks than we do our own networks," he said (you can view more of Morrison's diatribe and the rally in the video at the bottom of this post).

The local media was on-hand -- Channel 12, Channel 3, and Channel 15 all had trucks on site, but the media was even critical of its peers. Inside the Native New Yorker, commentators from local sports radio station The FAN 1060 AM were broadcasting live, and commented that, aside from East Valley Tribune writer Scott Bordow,  they didn't see a lot of local media there.

While fans gathered inside the restaurant to eat and discuss the Coyotes' woes, a thick crowd remained outside long after the rally's start. Many of the protesters weren't originally from Arizona. Bradley Bruce says he moved to Phoenix from Toronto. "I'm selfish. I want the team to stay here," Bruce said. "Toronto's got enough hockey teams. Moving the team to Hamilton won't help the NHL."

Despite the furor, most of the fans at the rally agreed that the Coyotes will probably remain in Glendale (a federal bankruptcy court will likely decide that fate on Tuesday). John Shapiro, who grew up in Los Angeles watching the Los Angeles Kings, says Balsillie's attempt to buy the Coyotes will fail. "This is his third attempt to buy a team," Shapiro said. "Pittsburgh closed the door on him, Nashville closed the door on him, and now we need to close the door."

Protesters gave many arguments for keeping the Coyotes in Glendale, from the economic boost to businesses around Arena to the charity causes the team supports, but superfan Josh Taylor, who says he's been at every Coyotes event since the team came to the Valley, had a more practical protest: "If the team leaves, half my wardrobe becomes unwearable."

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea