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Todd Walsh | Arizona Coyotes Broadcaster

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence
The Truth Network Radio
April 19, 2024 5:53 am

Todd Walsh | Arizona Coyotes Broadcaster

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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April 19, 2024 5:53 am

 Longtime Arizona Coyotes broadcaster Todd Walsh joins the show to address the team leaving for Salt Lake City.

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Visit Carvana.com or download the app and sell your car from your comfy place. We played a part of the tribute, the emotional farewell, from longtime Coyotes broadcaster Todd Walsh when the arena had emptied out and he was one of the only people left there. It brought people to tears and it went viral. A couple million views on social media.

That's just Twitter alone. We reached out to Todd and he's kind enough to join us now from the desert. Todd, I can't imagine the roller coaster you've been on over the last couple of days, but how are you feeling now after knowing for sure the team will be moving to Salt Lake?

First of all, thanks for having me. It's remarkable to be talking to someone a country away and talking about this. It strikes right into the heart and soul of the sports community in Arizona.

I think it's a little bigger than that, but I was on the road with them on this last road trip. We had a five-game trip near the end and we started to hear some of the rumors and then some of the stories started to break. It was sort of a slow bloodletting because, candidly, for those of us who were in the traveling party and up on the road, we saw the handwriting on the wall.

When you're embedded with the team, you see things and hear things that you can't report, as I know you know. The reality of it for me was just an inevitable moment. Then coming back home and watching it unfold in front of the fans at Mullet Arena last night was obviously the straw that broke the camel's back and then the news today. I was bracing for it, certainly in Canada, but really the reality is I was watching games at Mullet Arena and realizing that where there's smoke, there's fire. You just started to hear the comments and teams that were coming into town. They weren't happy. The union wasn't happy.

The league certainly knew that that wasn't sustainable. It's been a long, slow process and then the cliff. I don't know if I really answered your question, but I felt it coming when we were flying back from Calgary. I was preparing to say goodbye on the air last night.

That's basically where I was. I do want to talk about that because your goodbye of sorts and your stories have gone viral. Todd, if you had to tell someone who had no knowledge of the situation at all why it came to this, what would your answer be? It's about the economy, stupid.

Thank you for watching that. To me, it's just a series of mistakes. You can put the lion's share of this on the Morello family. There was so many missteps. But you've got to go all the way back to the very beginning, year number one, when they were in the America West Arena, the Suns Arena, and they obstructed these seats. They were the second citizen, the second tenant to the Suns. They couldn't put their own signage up and they were just always chasing their tail.

Once that started and they were dealing with that financial reality and they were losing money and all of a sudden. The drums started beating for this team to leave in year two, I believe. It was literally at the 11th hour that they didn't go to Portland. There were players that were going to be sent to Portland to look for homes. Just like these guys are doing in Salt Lake City and then in Quebec, in Kansas City, in Houston, in Winnipeg, in Seattle.

All of those rumors just kept going. As you look at this thing from 30,000 feet over 28 years, there was never stable ownership and they never got the arena that they really needed. The Gila River Arena in Glendale was on the west side and just so hard to get to, not anywhere near the population of their season ticket holders. They won an election in central Scottsdale and then the owner at the time was more into real estate and he wanted to build a mall and he got free land in Glendale.

I could go on and on and on, but it starts with location, location, location. It starts with just ownership that wasn't completely dialed in specifically for hockey. That just started to add on top of it and then finally the Mirabeau takeover and leaving Glendale Arena and effectively giving them no place to play that was suitable for the National Hockey League.

I think it all just piles on and then you've got what happened today. The league just couldn't do this anymore. There's no way. I know the league is desperately in love with this market. They've been so committed to it. I think they'll come back to it at some point.

Don't know when. This is a sports tragedy here in Phoenix, Arizona. I love what the Diamondbacks president, Derek Hall, said today. This is a wake-up call.

We just lost one of the majors and this is a top 10 television market, I believe, too. So, Todd, what's it been like to be with this franchise through the highs and the lows and the uncertainty and everything else? It's been decades of this. I never felt certain.

If I can talk to you on a personal and professional level about it, I had a job that I've always wanted. Every single year, and I mean every single year, it didn't matter if I was under contract or not, the ground was moving and it felt like we were on quicksand all the time. And I would just be so happy when I would show up for opening night because, okay, I know I've got 82 games. But there was just this never-ending drama and passion play that was just unfolding every year. But I always thought that one of the reasons why the Coyotes did have success early on, first of all, they were the new shiny new object in town.

It was really exciting. There is a hockey base here. But they were like Avis Renicart because they tried harder and they knew it.

Nothing came easy to them. So they would pound the streets and the pavement for tickets and promotions and doing everything they possibly could to get people in the building. And my stump speech for hockey is if you get in the building once, just once, and you see it and you feel it and you smell it and the visual explosion that is a hockey game up close and personal, you're going to come back. And if you can't come back, you might watch it on TV. And that's what we were doing.

I mean, it was all hands on deck. I had a stack of tickets that I got, season tickets, that I carried in my bag. And wherever I went, the marching order was if you see somebody and they recognize you or they've got a Coyote shirt on or a hat, here, give them a ticket. I had that for years. I walked around with a, it looked like a Tony Soprano, a lot of money in my hand. And if someone said, hey, love the Coyotes, can. And those were the little things that added up and then that changed. And then there was a sense of entitlement and there was new ownership and new management where they thought, well, it's Tuesday in Nashville, it's here, everyone's going to come. Well, that was wrong. And you can't do that in Arizona.

You can't do that in a destination like Phoenix, a resort city. It's just, you've got to hold their attention. And then the other part of it all is, and I didn't even mention this, is winning. And they just had several years of mediocrity and horrendous draft picks and they never had a complete rebuild and didn't do it right. So that's a very long-winded answer and I apologize, but that's, it's a complicated story. That's the part that sticks with me and resonates with me is the fact that it's been going on for so long.

And as you point out, quicksand, you always wondered when the other shoe would drop. And that's a tough way to live, not just for people employed by the team, but how about the team itself, even though that's transient and the roster often changes, but there have been ownership changes and management changes. And I say a lot that constant change equals constant losing in sports. And it feels like that's the cycle the Coyotes have been stuck in.

Yes. And if you're constantly finishing between eight and 15 or whatever it was, and you're just not getting that top three draft pick, you're not getting the generational player every now and again, you're never going to do it. I give Bill Armstrong, the general manager, all the credit in the world because when they brought him in, they finally just broke the cord. And they said, this is, we're going to do a rebuild. It's going to be hard. It's going to be really hard.

And it was a total rebuild. And now that's the heartbreaking thing is this, this team's going to Salt Lake City and they're going to be good. They're going to be really good. They've got such high-end skill and I think guys that potentially could be not, maybe not generational stars, but perennial all-stars in this new wave of the National Hockey League. And they're, I know they're going to spend money in Utah.

I would not be surprised to see them in the postseason pretty quickly. And that'll be, I mean, for Coyote fans here, that's just going to feel like, oh man, Grand Theft Hockey, you know. Longtime Coyotes broadcaster, Todd Walsh with them from day one is now with us here on After Hours with Amy Lawrence on an historic day that has been a poignant and emotional one. What have you heard from the fans about this moment and this move?

Man, last night it was, it was powerful. And again, there's just been a visceral connection to the Coyote fan base for years and years and years because of all the speculation that I just described, because we were all sort of living it together. That's why I said what I said at the end of our show, we really do walk together forever. And, you know, I was a part of that parade of rights holders on radio and then television where we're asking people, invest in this product.

And I don't know, financially, that never concerns me, but it's the emotional investment that you want a fan base to have in your team, your product, your shows. You know, I was constantly doing that and then now they're gone. So last night, I saw so many people that I hadn't seen in a long time and I was telling the story earlier that you would, you would make eye contact with someone and instantly knew there was a long standing recognition. And then you started to get closer to the person and the handshake starts and the hand squeezed a little harder than normal and all of a sudden you're in an embrace. And inevitably one of us would whisper, this didn't have to happen. I mean, there was anger there and there was frustration along with the sadness. So I sensed that.

I was there for two hours after the game last night when I drove out, there was still fans just cheering and applauding all of us that were leaving the building. And you know, it's hard. It's hard. I mean, it's a heart and soul thing. It's a heart and soul sport. The fans are so connected in hockey. I think like maybe none other sport and it was hard to drive away. It was really hard to drive away last night. Your goodbye, your ode to the coyotes. It was also a love letter to fans and to the family was all of those things into one.

And it was then captured in a five minute video that has gone viral around the sports world. The number of times it's been shared and viewed and the reaction obviously very heartfelt and a lot of the emotions that you're expressing to us now. But in that moment, how did you keep it together?

I think I would have been a basket case. I don't know. People have asked me that a lot. For some reason, I've been fortunate enough to talk about unfortunate moments.

And I mean, I don't know why. I guess the only analogy I can make is that I've sadly I've given I think seven eulogies. And there's something about when you walk up there and stand there and you're trying to take care of the person that you love so much and make sure that everybody is okay in the audience that you become. It's an out of body experience.

That's all I can say to you as a fellow broadcaster. When I went up there, I just I knew what I wanted to say. And it was it was my truth. And I didn't it. I put it together probably 48 hours ago in my head. I walked through it a couple of times. And we had so much other activity going on with our broadcast. I remember one point I was like, Oh, man, do I have this?

Am I going to do this? And then when it happened, I mean, I know you've probably felt this. Sometimes it's just an out of body experience. And I cannot believe I first of all, the fact that you and I are chatting right now is mind boggling me. I was on a radio station in Saskatchewan.

They're talking about snow reports. Then they came to me to talk about it. It's I've heard from people across every sport that you can imagine. And it's it's felt like a kind of a living lake. But I will tell you that it's the greatest blessing I've ever had. I hadn't didn't sleep last night. I'm on zero fumes. You're the last human I'm going to talk to you today.

Wow. And I just I've been able to tell so many people that I love them. And it's been an unbelievable feeling. I've had people reaching out from first year of the coyotes to when I was with the Arizona basketball team a thousand years ago.

And on and on and coaches I've never met. And I've been able to just tell them what they meant to me. And I think that's a great gift. I feel like, like I said last night or tried to say that it's up to us to find something good out of every story, no matter how it ends. And my personal joy is what has just happened today. I don't know how it happened. I do not know how that happened. But I'm glad it happened.

I'm not not for me. I'm glad for the sport. I'm glad for the people in the sport and I'm glad for the people here in Arizona. They're really hurting right now. And maybe that gave them something that they could find their own joy.

And that's, you know what, if that's what was asked of me somehow from some other power, I'm very happy to have been the vehicle for that. What is your sense about the fans and how or if they will support the coyotes when they move to Salt Lake in light of them chanting Salt Lake sucks last night? You know what, I think this is a unique place in that experience because of what happened with Winnipeg. And when the Jets came here, it was brutal.

But this was before social media and just the dawn of the internet age, really, when you think about it. But as the years went on, Winnipeg crept back up into the conversation. There was talk that coyotes were going back and many people thought they were. And all of us here were under attack from Winnipeg. And then when Winnipeg did come back and we went to play there, I mean, they even booed Shane Doan. I think coyote fans got a heavy dose of that. And I think their angst is more directed at the current ownership right now. I don't think they're going to be taking it out on Salt Lake.

I just don't feel that. I think it's because of the uniqueness of that experience. I know one thing I learned is, I was very young in my broadcasting career, but I watched these reporters come chase the coyotes for a year. They followed the team like it was their beat. So they were flying from Winnipeg to Phoenix and meeting us on the road. And it was a team that they had lost. And those guys were angry and they had a chip on their shoulder and I got to know them over the years. And when they got their team back to Winnipeg, I specifically went up to the press box and went to both of them and said, I want you to know that I know what you were experiencing. I now realize it.

And if I wasn't cool to use that, I'm sorry, but I should have understood, but I know now. And I'm glad you got a team back. So I think, I hope fans here in Arizona, they've got other things to be angry about right now.

It's not Salt Lake. And they just want to keep the hope of hockey alive. And I think they're very skeptical of the current ownership that will bring them.

So that'll be the big, the big angst for them to roll with for a while. Todd Walsh is with us from the desert where the Coyotes will soon be departing after nearly three decades, an emotional couple of days, even if people knew it was coming. It's After Hours with Amy Lawrence here on CBS Sports Radio. Todd, this is a little bit off the beaten path, but how cool is it to have another Doan part of the organization? He's the one that a lot of people are going to for reaction, considering that his dad is one of the greatest players in franchise history. He is. He's the face of it. He's the first family of hockey in Arizona.

And if you had called 10 minutes earlier, I was at Shane's house with a little gathering of longtime Coyote employees. And it was one of the coolest nights I've ever experienced really in covering sports. And I've covered every single sport.

I've been a rights holder for every sport you can imagine. But to see Josh Doan do what he did on that night in front of his family, it was, it was remarkable. It was electric. And I think nobody at that point thought that this was going to happen. So we were all sitting here thinking, Oh my God, we're going to be covering this again.

He's just like his dad and all these things. And all of a sudden it's over. And there he was deflecting and talking about this, this Titanic change. And I actually had seen on the intermission last night and we were in a commercial break and he said, don't you dare make me cry. And we came out of the break with a soundbite of Josh talking just like Shane.

And he just punched me in the shoulder. And I said, I'm sorry, but look at what you look at what you've created here and the people in Salt Lake. And they're getting a very special person and a special family, and it's not going to take them long to figure it out. And everybody here in Arizona knows it. And that's the hard part. Now, as I said that on the air, maybe I shouldn't have last night, but the saddest thing for me was that the Doan family was leaving that building when the doors closed and lights went out.

That was it for hockey here and at that level. And that just breaks my heart. It's a legacy that he's like a man without a country right now, Shane Doan is, but Josh will carry that torch. I can imagine he's so incredibly proud. And honestly, Todd, I didn't know that he would get the banner that had his number on it. At least the franchise allowed him to take that home. Well, it was thrown out and discarded and somebody found it.

Oh, no way. There's a horrible story to that. I don't have all the details, but when they left Glendale, they left and the banner got pulled down and got put in a storage case. And then I believe it was discarded and somebody found it. And somebody was cool enough to say, I've got this and they gave it back to him. But, you know, I go back to the night that thing was raised and it was just a celebration, unlike anything I've ever seen in Arizona sports history and for the right person.

And like I said, the right family. Wow. It's so emotional. I almost feel badly asking you more questions, but if you don't mind just one more, what has it meant to you to be part of this family as you talked about so eloquently on your goodbye last night? Oh, it's the story arc of my adult life. As I said, it gave me a purpose and professionally and personally the best friends I've ever had in my life has come from the sport of hockey. I learned so much about just proper respect and the reverence for everybody in and around this game because it comes to you if they see you living that life, which is what I was doing. And I just wanted people to know that the sport breeds a special type of person.

And I'm so fortunate to have been a part of that. I didn't play hockey. I played street hockey. My parents couldn't afford skates and equipment. It was my lifelong dream to do it.

I didn't. I had a couple of twists and turns in my career. I never thought I would go back to sports and somehow some way the hockey team appears in the desert and they want to be on a rock station and I'm sitting there. Are you kidding me?

Somebody's controlling that and that's in another world. And I was given an opportunity and I didn't want to screw it up. And one of my closest friends who won a Stanley Cup and I just looked up to so much said to me one day, this is the best advice I ever got.

And sadly, I had to speak this at his eulogy. He said to me, make yourself invaluable. Don't ever let them imagine what you're doing. Make yourself invaluable. Don't ever let them imagine what it's like to not have you covering their team and being a part of their story presentation.

Don't let them ever think that it's okay to not have you around. I took that to heart. I finally probably grew up enough to understand that.

And I'm sitting here talking to you about it 28 years later. I hope it's not over. I don't want to walk away from sport of hockey. But we'll see.

I guess it's up to the hockey gods, I presume. But it's been an amazing journey and I don't regret any of it. Todd Walsh, any franchise would be fortunate to have you tell their story considering the history that you have seen and absorbed and the passion and the emotion with which you identify, not to mention the family that you speak of and that you've created. Find Todd on Twitter at Todd Walsh and the video. You need to watch it because it was in the moment. It was perfectly delivered and the poor guy has not slept since because he's going to need a new phone.

He's celebrity status now. We appreciate it. I know it's been a really long couple of days, very emotional couple of days, but thank you so much for sharing not just your story, but speaking for the fans in Arizona. Todd, it's been good to connect with you. Well, from Rochester, New York to Scottsdale, Arizona to you, I really appreciate this. It means the world that you guys reached out and I wouldn't have ever imagined that happening.

So I'm honored by that and thank you for those words. Okay, picture this. It's Friday afternoon when a thought hits you. I can spend another weekend doing the same old whatever, or I can hop into my all new Hyundai Santa Fe and hit the road. With available H-TRAC all wheel drive and three row seating, my whole family can head deep into the wild. Conquer the weekend in the all new Hyundai Santa Fe. Visit HyundaiUSA.com or call 562-314-4603 for more details.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-19 07:06:29 / 2024-04-19 07:17:01 / 11

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