Once upon a time in a city named Winnipeg, the local hockey team’s infrequent forays into the postseason were a happening. Fans came to the arena dressed in white and the Whiteout was born.
Such a concept has been borrowed, expanded and exploited by unoriginal marketing departments to the point where it’s hard to find a professional hockey or basketball team whose fans don’t adopt something similar – Rocking the Red in Washington, Pittsburgh’s own Whiteout, the Planet Orange efforts here in Phoenix. Winnipeg’s Whiteout was unique. It was organic.
And now, for the first time since the Phoenix Coyotes moved to the West Valley in 2003, it’s in Glendale.
There’s no special claim to it here; in fact the Coyotes’ own marketing department managed to take a playoff tradition and run it into the ground with a “Welcome Wayne” whiteout when Gretzky became a part-owner of the team and another one or two along the way. When there’s no postseason, what else is there for the team to do?
Last night, however, the Stanley Cup Playoffs arrived in Phoenix. This was the scene last night:
Which, needless to say, was a little different than the scene in September when the Coyotes’ future in the desert was in doubt as the team’s previous owner dragged the franchise through U.S. Bankruptcy Court and Blackberry owner Jim Balsillie was trying to buy himself a team for Hamilton, Ontario:
More than 17,000 fans were at Jobing.Com Arena and, in an absolutely amazing turn of events, at least 90 percent of them were Coyotes fans and not supporters of the hated Red Wings. The building was loud, the atmosphere electric. And the Coyotes won, 3-2, in their first playoff game in eight years.
The Coyotes, Arizona Cardinals and the two stadiums in which they play – Jobing.Com Arena and University of Phoenix Stadium – are the anchors for the Westgate City Center, the mixed-use development at the junction of Glendale Avenue and Loop 101. The decline in the real estate market has taken a large hit on the project; losing the Coyotes would have been even worse.
But the Coyotes are staying put. The shirts are white. And all is well with the transported original Whiteout.