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Coyotes seeking Hawks-like revival

Phoenix goalie Mike Smith keeps Daniel Carcillo's third period scoring attempt out net as Phoenix Coyotes defeated Chicago Blackhawks 4-1

Phoenix goalie Mike Smith keeps Daniel Carcillo's third period scoring attempt out of the net as the Phoenix Coyotes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 November 29, 2011 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 13, 2012 10:34AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — Going by the number of empty seats often staring back at him in Jobing.com Arena, Adrian Aucoin’s arrival in Phoenix may have felt like a lateral move compared with his days when he was the Blackhawks captain.

Aucoin wore the “C” for the Hawks during two injury-plagued seasons from 2005 to 2007 before landing with the Coyotes in 2009-10 after a pit stop with the Calgary Flames.

It was the same year the Hawks won the Stanley Cup and his former team was already well into its current record-setting home sell-out streak at the United Center that has seen them rise to the biggest draw in the NHL at over 21,553 a game.

A stark contrast from Aucoin’s time in Chicago — when the Hawks weren’t broadcasting home games and routinely drawing less than 10,000 fans under former owner Bill Wirtz — and now with the Coyotes, who averaged 12,420 fans per game this season, the lowest in the league.

But Aucoin says there is a difference between the Hawks then and the Coyotes now.

“Here we battle and scrape for every inch and [in Chicago] people wanted it so bad and they were just desperate for it,” Aucoin said. “I’m from Canada and I’d go back in the summer and there were Blackhawk fans everywhere up there talking about [the team] . . . Here we’re literally reaching out to bring fans in.”

The Hawks were revitalized with a young core of players under the new ownership of Rocky Wirtz, and Aucoin is hoping for something similar to save hockey in the Phoenix area as an ownership group led by former San Jose Sharks CEO Craig Jamison was reportedly Wednesday moving closer to buying the Coyotes franchise.

The NHL has owned the Coyotes since it bought them out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy for $140 million in 2009.

“It becomes kind of an anecdote around here because we’re on our third year of it,” Aucoin said. “. . . It really has been around here for so long . . . the same monotony of not going what’s going on. It’s just kind of blended in.”

And Aucoin believes that the team can get the stability that the commitment from a new ownership group would provide, that hockey in the desert could flourish.

“They want to see a winner, which we’ve done a pretty good job of,” Aucoin said. “But the fans like anyone else are not going to buy into anything unless there’s a little bit of certainty.”



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