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Coyotes could find new fans in Latino community

PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Coyotes' recent run through the Stanley Cup playoffs brought much-needed positive attention to the team in the Valley.

But many believe that if the team stays in Glendale, it must draw more fans from the Valley's large Hispanic community in order to grow and survive.

Latino fans watched the games with interest at the Fiesta Grill, a sports bar near 16th and Roosevelt streets that caters to Hispanics.

Fans said they are confident that the Coyotes would do well if they tried to introduce hockey to more people in the Latino community.

"First of all, I think that they will have to get more players that Latin people can relate to," said Herson Gallegos.

The Coyotes have a player who may be able to do that. Left wing Raffi Torres is Hispanic -- of Peruvian and Mexican descent -- and one of the team's more popular players.

Some people say that the expense of hockey keeps Latinos from getting interested in the sport. Rito Florez doesn't believe that.

"Hispanics do pay a lot of money to go see soccer," he said. "Soccer tickets are very expensive, and yet you see the Brazilian and Hispanic people showing up there."

Florez said he and his kids became Coyotes fans after they went to a game and found hockey to be exciting and fun.

Florez said the key to the Coyotes' success could be making their games more accessible to the Hispanic community through radio and television.

He thinks that if the games were broadcast in Spanish -- like the D-backs, Suns and Cardinals -- there would be a big jump in interest in the Latino community.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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