Nestled in the heart of the Arizona desert sits a patch of ice that is home to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Keith Yandle | #3
In recent years the bloom seems to have disappeared from the desert rose as the Coyotes have teetered on the brink of packing their tent and heading out of town.
While the hockey world ponders the fate of the franchise, one member of the Coyotes who has a bright future ahead of him is Keith Yandle.
Growing up in the northeast, Yandle admits that it’s taken time to grow accustomed to playing hockey in the sweltering heat, but judging by the success of his team in recent years, it won’t be long until Phoenix silences the calls to move the franchise to colder climes.
“It’s obviously a bit different playing here [in Phoenix],” said the Boston native.
“Since I got with the team I have noticed the crowds growing and more people are coming out to see us, and it seems to get a bit better every year. Hopefully that continues to grow as we continue to grow and improve each season.”
Yandle’s play last season was enough to draw the attention of even the casual hockey fan, both at home and around the league. His offensive output was a big key to the team’s success. Yandle finished second to team captain Shane Doan in points with 59, and only Lubomir Visnovsky and Nicklas Lidstrom had more points among NHL defensemen.
“I have more confidence in myself and in my game, and now the guys have more confidence in me, too,” Yandle said. “I just try and play my game the best I can and of course a lot of credit goes to my teammates. Everyone does such a good job that it makes my job a little bit easier.”
Yandle has proven he is comfortable in any situation, whether it’s in front of 8,000 or 80,000 fans. A member of the 2010 U.S. National Team, he played in front of a world record crowd of 77,803 in an upset loss to host Germany at the IIHF World Championships last April.
“It was great, and it was an honor to be picked for that team,” said Yandle, who tallied four points in the tournament.
“To be able to go over and play in front of some 77,000 people was amazing. You kind of felt what it was like for some of those soccer players over there with such an intense crazy crowd.
“The record was broken with the Michigan-Michigan State [Big Chill] game this year but to still have held a record attendance like that for a little while is something I won’t forget.”
A product of Cushing Academy in Massachusetts, Yandle’s point production skyrocketed during his sole year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where his 84 points not only led the Wildcats to the championship, but also earned him Best Defenseman of the Year.
“To have earned that was such an honor, and it was such a fun season with that team,” said Yandle, who signed with the Coyotes the next year for the 2006-07 season. “But to jump from there [the QMJHL] to the NHL, plenty of adjustments had to be made.”
Yandle split time between San Antonio and Phoenix from 2006-08 as he worked to refine the defensive side of his game.
“In the NHL you can’t be all offense, you have to play good defense to get on the offensive side of the puck,” he said. “It’s more about managing your game and keeping it simple.”
And with the Coyotes becoming a consistent force in the Western Conference, Yandle’s exposure under the desert sun will only continue.
“Last year making it to the playoffs, playing at home against a team like Detroit was unreal and really helped showcase what we have here to the people in Phoenix,” Yandle said.
“I think they are starting to recognize that they have a good team here, and it’s good entertainment and the more people that come, the better we play. Once you make it to the playoffs, you just want to get back there, and we have every intention of doing just that.”
Hometown: Londonderry, N.H.
There’s an expression in hockey that attitude determines altitude. If that’s the case, Danny Bears is destined to reach great heights. At 4-foot-5 and 65 pounds, Danny stands tall on the back end of the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs Peewee Major Elites defensive corps. Fearless and ferocious, Danny’s leadership is always evident, especially when his team is behind at a crucial point in a game. His impact in the locker room and on the ice may not always show up on the score sheet, but Danny’s contributions have always been vital to his team’s success.