Aug. 28, 2005
© The Arizona Republic
COYOTES, FANS HAPPY TO FINALLY SEE EACH OTHER
Tyson Nash didn't know how many fans would show up to greet some of the Coyotes players at the team's "Open House" Saturday at Glendale Arena.
Nash also wasn't sure if those who attended would be glad to see the hockey players for the first time since the 301-day NHL lockout ended, or if they'd come with criticism and insults.
As it turned out, the fans, some of whom showed up an hour early, came at them with cameras and Sharpies.
Nash and newcomer Denis Gauthier signed autographs, posed for pictures and shook hands with fans non-stop for two hours.
Ditto Cale Hulse and Jeff Taffe who relieved their teammates.
The players, and numerous Coyotes officials, were pleasantly surprised by the turnout.
"To be honest, I kind of expected a little more negativity toward us, but for the most part about 95 percent of the people were excited to see us back," Nash said. "With all the changes we made to the team, people were just buzzing. They can't wait for that first exhibition game."
At one point, a fan expressed frustration to Nash about how long it took for the players and owners to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
Other than that, it was basically, "It's good to have you back," and, "We can't wait to see you guys play again."
Glendale resident Brandon Newcomb, 21, waited in line for an autograph and a picture with Nash. He said there's no sense holding a grudge against anyone for the lockout.
"I look at it as something that had to happen to keep the sport healthy," Newcomb said. "There's no use putting blame on it or pointing fingers. I'm just glad it's over with."
Payson resident Irene Schwartzbauer, 69, echoed Newcomb.
"I was so disappointed last season was canceled because of all the trades the Coyotes made," she said. "I wanted to see them play. I'm so glad it's over now. I'm so tired of watching reruns and my own videos. I have Miracle memorized already."
The team has more fan-friendly events tentatively planned for the next few weeks. Dates and times will be announced soon.
"We know we have to work hard to get the fans back," Chief Marketing Officer Mike Bucek said. "And there's no owner's manual in terms of how to bring back a sports franchise that has missed an entire season or a league that has missed an entire season. So we're going to work as hard as we can to get the players out in the community and promote the team as hard as we can."
New athletic therapist
Chris Broadhurst has been hired to replace Gord Hart as head athletic therapist.
Broadhurst spent 14 seasons in the same role with the Toronto Maple Leafs and worked in minor league baseball before that.
Hart, who spent 10 seasons with Winnipeg/Phoenix, became a Valley-based physician's assistant during the lockout.