The Phoenix Coyotes, now known as the Arizona Coyotes, has an interesting history that dates back to their origins as the Winnipeg Jets.
Relocating from Winnipeg to Phoenix for the 1996-97 season, the team struggled to find success in the playoffs despite the new location and name.
During this era, the Phoenix Coyotes faced challenges both on and off the ice, with ownership issues that eventually led to the NHL taking over the franchise in 2009.
Under unstable ownership, then-owner Jerry Moyes gave up the team after declaring bankruptcy.
In 2013, the NHL sold the team to an ownership group that vowed to keep the Coyotes in Arizona.
The franchise officially changed its name from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Arizona Coyotes in 2014, in an effort to appeal to hockey fans across the state and reflect their base outside of Phoenix.
- Origins of the Phoenix Coyotes
- Significant Moments and Players
- Financial Struggles and Ownership
- The Coaching Staff
- Stadium History
- The Name Change Decision
- Legacy of the Phoenix Coyotes
Origins of the Phoenix Coyotes
Winnipeg Jets Relocation
The Phoenix Coyotes, now known as the Arizona Coyotes, originated from the relocation of the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix before the 1996-97 NHL season. Despite the new location and name, the team’s struggle to succeed in the playoffs continued.
To establish their identity as a new team in Arizona, the Phoenix Coyotes introduced a new logo and sweater during their first season, which has since become quite polarizing among NHL fans. The original design featured a coyote’s head half-covered by an old-school goalie mask, forming a loose “A” shape representing Arizona. The team name was displayed beneath the coyote, with the words “Phoenix” and “Coyotes” stacked on top of each other.
Throughout their time as the Phoenix Coyotes, the team performed moderately, with 20 playoff appearances across the span of 43 seasons, from 1979-80 to 2022-23. However, they never secured an NHL championship or a Stanley Cup win. During this era, Shane Doan emerged as the all-time goals leader with 402 and the all-time points leader with 972.
In an effort to represent the entire state, the Phoenix Coyotes eventually changed their franchise name to the Arizona Coyotes, demonstrating their commitment to expanding their reach beyond just Phoenix.
Significant Moments and Players
The Phoenix Coyotes had a successful inaugural season, finishing with a winning record and securing a spot in the playoffs. Some notable playoff moments from their time as the Phoenix Coyotes included a deep run during the 2011-12 season, where they reached the Western Conference Final for the first time in their history. However, they ultimately fell short, losing to the Los Angeles Kings.
Notable Draft Picks
Throughout their time as the Phoenix Coyotes, the team managed to draft several talented players who have contributed significantly to the franchise. Some standout draft picks from this era include:
- Keith Tkachuk (1st round, 19th overall, in 1990)
- Shane Doan (1st round, 7th overall, in 1995)
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson (1st round, 6th overall, in 2009)
These players have had a lasting impact on the team and are remembered as some of the greatest talents to don a Coyotes jersey.
The Coyotes have had several players represent the franchise in All-Star games during their Phoenix era. Fan favorites such as Shane Doan and Keith Tkachuk were regulars at the annual event, showcasing their skills on a national stage.
Additionally, goaltender Sean Burke earned an All-Star nod in 2001, while defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson made his first All-Star appearance in 2015.
Financial Struggles and Ownership
The Phoenix Coyotes faced significant financial challenges during their time as an NHL franchise. Their mounting debts eventually led them to file for bankruptcy protection.
The team had lost an estimated $200 million since 2001 and posted heavy losses in recent years, including $41.6 million in 2006-07, $37.3 million during the 2007-08 season, and $54 million in 2008-09.
To cover their estimated $80 million debt, the Coyotes pledged all of their assets to SOF Investments LP, a New York-based company.
As the financial situation of the Phoenix Coyotes worsened, the National Hockey League (NHL) had to intervene to provide support and stability.
The NHL took an active role in finding new ownership for the team and managing the franchise during the turbulent period.
This intervention aimed to preserve the team’s presence in the league and prevent relocation or dissolution.
Throughout the years, the Phoenix Coyotes experienced multiple changes in ownership.
These transitions often came with promises to turn the franchise around, but they also brought more uncertainty about the team’s long-term viability in the area.
One such transition involved the sale of the team to Andrew Barroway, who had previously attempted to purchase two other NHL franchises.
This period witnessed a rollercoaster of events, including public finger-pointing and fear of the franchise’s future.
The Coaching Staff
The Phoenix Coyotes, before their name change to the Arizona Coyotes, had a number of influential coaches who contributed to the team’s development.
One of these coaches was the team’s first head coach, Don Hay, who coached the team for just one season.
Perhaps the most well-known coach during this era was Dave Tippett, who joined the team later in its history. Tippett brought a wealth of experience and a successful track record, helping the team achieve significant improvements.
Throughout the Phoenix Coyotes era, the coaching staff played an essential role in shaping the team’s identity and performance on the ice. They were responsible for designing and implementing strategies, as well as developing the skills of individual players.
Under the guidance of the various coaching staff, the Phoenix Coyotes made strides in developing their roster, creating a solid foundation for the future. The coaches also fostered a strong team culture, emphasizing teamwork and the collective pursuit of success.
While their time as the Phoenix Coyotes may have come to an end, the influence of the coaching staff during that era laid the groundwork for the team’s transition to the Arizona Coyotes and their future successes.
America West Arena
The Phoenix Coyotes first set up shop at America West Arena in downtown Phoenix when the team arrived in the Valley of the Sun in 1996.
Built in 1992, America West Arena, later renamed to US Airways Center, served as the team’s home venue from 1996 to 2003.
Gila River Arena
The Arizona Coyotes (formerly known as Phoenix Coyotes) then moved to the Gila River Arena located in Glendale, Arizona.
The team began playing at this arena in 2003, and served as the home of the Coyotes until 2022, when the team temporarily moved to Mullett Arena until they find a new permanent home.
While the venue has had its issues, such as baffling and unfriendly arena entry rules and lack of public transportation that make getting to Gila River Arena difficult for some, it has seen an increase in crowd attendance thanks to new ownership and a winning record.
The Name Change Decision
Reasons Behind the Change
The decision to change the team’s name from Phoenix Coyotes to Arizona Coyotes came after years of representing the city of Phoenix under their previous moniker.
One of the primary reasons for the change was to better represent the entire state of Arizona, showcasing that the team belonged to all Arizonans and not just those living in Phoenix.
The change also aimed to generate a new level of interest and enthusiasm by broadening the team’s appeal to a wider audience.
Transition to the Arizona Coyotes
After much deliberation and planning, the name change was officially announced by the team’s Co-Owner, President, and CEO Anthony LeBlanc in 2014.
The transition to the Arizona Coyotes coincided with the NHL Draft on Friday, where the team held the 12th overall pick.
During this period, the team not only changed its name but also underwent a branding transformation. This included updating their team logo, jerseys, and merchandise to reflect the new identity. Fans were excited to embrace the new era of the Arizona Coyotes and show their support for the rebranded team.
Since the name change, the Arizona Coyotes have faced various challenges, including a bitter divorce from their home city of Glendale. However, the team has continued to persevere and represent their state proudly, working to cement their identity as the Arizona Coyotes in the NHL.
Legacy of the Phoenix Coyotes
The Phoenix Coyotes, now known as the Arizona Coyotes, were a team that experienced growth and challenges during their years with the Phoenix name.
This period is defined not only by their on-ice accomplishments but also by the off-ice developments and controversies that shaped the identity of the franchise.
During their time as the Phoenix Coyotes, the team saw several notable players wear their jerseys. Some of these stars include captain Shane Doan, who spent his entire career with the Coyotes organization, as well as other talented players like Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, and Teppo Numminen.
Their contributions helped build a competitive team that made several playoff appearances.
In addition to the on-ice talent, the Phoenix Coyotes also experienced a significant rebranding in 2003 following a change in team ownership.
The franchise introduced a bold new logo and uniforms, paying homage to both the Native American and Mexican heritage of the region.
This striking design helped establish a strong visual identity for the team in the highly competitive NHL landscape.
Off the ice, challenges emerged throughout the team’s history in Phoenix, including financial turmoil and questions surrounding the location and stability of the franchise.
The Coyotes faced substantial debt and uncertainty about their future when they filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Following multiple potential buyers and legal battles, the team was eventually purchased by IceArizona, securing the team’s place in the desert for the foreseeable future.
Despite these challenges, the Phoenix Coyotes era laid the foundations for the current Arizona Coyotes organization.
Their legacy includes developing strong fan support, cultivating a lasting relationship with the community, and fostering the growth of youth and grassroots hockey in the region.
While the team’s name may have changed, the spirit of the Phoenix Coyotes lives on in the Arizona Coyotes’ continued pursuit of success both on and off the ice.
James is a big time NBA Golden State follower, who makes sure to catch games when he's in the area. He likes to follow International Soccer, with an interest in small town soccer club, Blackburn Rovers located in the North on the UK.