I guess you could argue that this is a follow up post to my 'Tales of Tired Hockey Fan' post from over a month ago. I will admit, I was a little overwhelmed with the response to that post, so many messages of support for the Phoenix came in. Along with some obvious negativity and trollage, to be expected really!
Anyway, this post is to address the news that, by now all of you will know, the Phoenix are no more.
Its really a post about one of the most unusual days in my hockey supporting life. If the previous post was, 'Tales from a Tired hockey fan' this one, certainly in relation to UK hockey is 'Tales from a sleeping hockey fan'. The death of my club, the reaction by the vocal minority have pretty much killed off my interest in UK hockey but, not quite stone dead! I will try and explain!
Its no secret that the past year and a half has been tough as a Phoenix fan, both mentally, physically and financially. 2016/17 season was always going to be tough. So, when an opportunity arose at work, which meant I could finally get to Arizona in an affordable way, checking the Coyote schedule yielded a week where there would be 2 NHL games and 2 AHL games all at Gila River Arena I jumped at the chance. So, the last few days of January and early February, Mr & Mrs Angry Budgie flew stateside, to Arizona to attend the first live Coyote games in my 20 years of supporting the team.
Tickets were in hand for LA and Chicago at Airzona and the Checkers at Roadrunners, all at GRA. I wont go into too much detail on the games as, most of you will have watched NHL anyway. What I will say is, the Phoenix shirts caused alot of interest and interesting questions. We also got to meet up with Sarah Hall, one half of the Den Talk Coyote podcast duo. We also got to meet some other Coyote fans who have quickly become good friends.
So, the day of reckoning, the day which altered my love for UK hockey in a big way. Mrs Angry Budgie and I were relaxing, prior to the LA game, in the entertainment area outside GRA on some sofa's around a fountain. Beautiful blue Arizona skies, lovely and warm, so excited to be finally seeing an Arizona Coyote game when, via twitter, we read the news about the death of our club.
Imagine how far my spirits fell in that moment, on an incredible high about to watch the Coyotes, to learning the club I love and supported for so long has ended. In that moment, surrounded by the Arizona sunshine, other hockey fans, our emotions got the better of us. Such a surreal situation we both were numb, completely numb, not knowing what to make of our feelings. Reading the reaction from friends on twitter and facebook was heartbreaking, we suddenly felt every one of those miles from Manchester. After a good amount of time trying to get our heads around what had happened, we finally had to pick ourselves up and get ready for NHL hockey.
GRA is beautiful, finally walking the halls of my NHL teams arena was special. Going down to ice level to watch warmup and take pictures was incredible. All the while (certainly) my feelings were a little muted given the demise of the Phoenix. Still, watching the game from up in the gods, I was able to enjoy the experience, finally forgetting about UK hockey for 3 hours. The NHL is such a slick show, the Coyotes have a great media show and one hell of a goal horn. That damn thing could be heard across the country!
So, that was the most surreal day in my hockey supporting life, from an extreme high to and extreme low and back again. Watching my life long NHL team while mourning the loss of my UK team all in the space of a few hours. A year and a half of constant negativity from sections of the UK #hockeyfamily, to an organisation/team misappropriating history and being involved in the demise of my club. This has left me numb to UK hockey, I still love the game, I still love the people I have met through it. But, I think my interest solely remains to see those people, its the people I care for, not so much the teams that remain.
Who knows, in the future something may come along that I can get excited about? But, for now, I'll be supporting the Coyotes from Macclesfield, were still in with a shout of the playoffs......until mathematically impossible of course! As for the game in the UK? Im going to take a nap, wake me up when Manchester gets a new rink!