Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Coyotes no longer howling

Spared indignity of move to Winnipeg, compliments have replaced complaints

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Not having to move to Winnipeg has current members of the Phoenix Coyotes in a magnanimous mood, it seems.

After all the rancour of last season when talk of the Coyotes moving to Winnipeg was a daily distraction, the players were giving the Jets and the city some love on Friday afternoon.

"It's a home opener and a unique situation in the fact that it's Winnipeg and our organization's connection," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, selected seventh overall in the 1995 NHL entry draft by Winnipeg, where he spent one season before the franchise moved to Phoenix.

"Winnipeg gave me the opportunity to play in the NHL and I'll always be grateful for that incredible opportunity and to play there. Being from Western Canada it was so special for me to play there and it's unique to get the chance to play against them."

Doan was vocal last winter about not wanting to leave Phoenix, but on Friday he said he was thrilled Winnipeg was back in the NHL.

"I'm incredibly glad. You look at the emotion and the attachment and the passion the fans in Winnipeg have for their team -- it's fun to watch," said Doan, who played in 74 games with the Jets, scoring seven goals and 10 assists. "It's incredibly unique and the opportunity to get a team back is special and for Winnipeg it will be a lot of fun."

Veteran defenceman and Ottawa native Adrian Aucoin says today's game is different than most on the schedule.

"I think for us, the older guys here, this game means a lot," said Aucoin, 38. "For the Jets, they're a young team, but they will have an understanding of what the people in Winnipeg have gone through. I'm sure they've heard a lot about it. They know how big a game this is. It's not a playoff game, but this adds to it."

Aucoin said leaving Phoenix wasn't a preferred option last season, but if it had happened, Winnipeg would have been a fine destination.

"There's no ill will towards Winnipeg. I've played there and I know a lot of guys from there. People love it. Older guys don't want to leave where they are once they have put down roots," said Aucoin. "I've told people in our organization, if you're a young guy coming up you want to play in a place where the sport, whatever sport it is, is the No. 1 thing. In Canadian cities that's hockey."

Aucoin added the addition of Winnipeg to the league is good for all players.

"All of a sudden us dumb hockey players are beginning to understand the percentage of the money in escrow we have to give back. So we're all for teams doing so well and Winnipeg is one of those places now," said Aucoin.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2011 C1

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