In praise of Bobby Ryan

In praise of Bobby Ryan
"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable. I played with [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the league. Bobby's hands are right with those guys... He's a superstar in the making, it seems."
---Ryan Whitney, former Ducks defenseman

Monday, March 8, 2010

Coyotes Carnival

I know this is a self-proclaimed Anaheim Ducks blog, but I've been known to highlight certain non-Duck hockey events, particularly in the off-season.

Granted, this isn't the off-season yet, there was a non-Duck hockey event worth reporting on. Yours truly is doing this out of respect for a franchise that did a great job bringing players and fans together in the name of charity.

Oh, and it was also a heckuvalot of fun, making it worth blogging about! (Special thanks to a certain friend that accompanied me and allowed me to get the most out of the festivities!)

This past Sunday, after our hometown heroes had left Phoenix, Arizona and were on their way back home to host the Montreal Canadiens, the Phoenix Coyotes continued their weekend with popcorn and cotton candy at the Coyotes Carnival.

Brought indoors due to inclimate weather, the rink at Arena would become the carnival grounds

Players manned the game booths; everything from ring tosses to milk bottle topples to darts could be played by the attending fans. With a $5 donation, fans could get a player autograph or a picture with a player; both for $10. Attendance cost only $10, and all donations went to Coyotes Charities.

Left winger Lauri Korpikoski manning the ring toss booth

There was also a live band, clowns, face-painting, jugglers, and carnival-themed food. Every donation gave a fan a chance in the raffle drawing for plenty of prize packages, including glass tickets, concert suites, and vacation destinations. Hockey sticks, memorabilia, and autographs from players past were sold at discounted prices at the "Garage Sale" booth.

Before the carnival began, VIP fans were treated to a catered Fleming's lunch with the players

Good grub for growing athletes

Yours truly wasn't exactly hungry, feeling more excited and anxious than anything. For the record, I've never personally met any of the Coyotes before. The team has been my second favorite (behind the Ducks, of course) for the last year (specifically, since center Matthew Lombardi was traded from the Calgary Flames at the 2009 trade deadline), but I don't know much about the other players.

My pick-up line tended to be, "Hey, I flew in from California to see the Ducks/Yotes game last night and for the carnival today..." and the reactions from the players were anything from "Oh no, don't tell me you're a Ducks fan!" (defenseman Keith Yandle) to "Oh wow, that's great! We have Coyotes fans in California!" (Captain Shane Doan) to "I was with the Ducks in '03 for that painful playoff finals loss. And then I left Anaheim and they went on to win the Cup! Go figure!" (defenseman Kurt Sauer).

Shane Doan, the ultimate fan-friend, stayed long after all the other players had left to give every fan special attention

Ex-Duck Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was extremely amused, pointing out that the picture I'd brought him to autograph was one I had shot at the Ponda. He exclaimed, "You're a Ducks fan, but you're wearing a Coyotes shirt!" which he then followed with lots of hearty laughter.

Bryz, you crack me up.

Bryz stifling a yawn as he signed autographs. I don't blame the guy, his line was long, second only to Doan

Defenseman Jim Vandermeer signing autographs

Right winger Petr Prucha chatting with a young fan

Left winger Taylor Pyatt and defenseman Adrian Aucoin signing autographs

Defenseman Sami Lepisto is the Yotes sole Olympian medalist. He brought home the bronze with Team Finland

Tough guys Paul Bissonnette and Ed Jovanovski signing autographs

Overall, this was an amazing event. I was greatly impressed by the Coyotes players in attendance as well as the rest of the Coyotes staff. I was also impressed by the fans that I had the opportunity to talk to while standing in the player lines. The hockey market might be small in the desert, but there are fans out there who are very devoted to their team. And there is a very appreciative franchise that goes above and beyond to thank them for their support.


My Zimbio
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