Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald jokes with Arizona Coyotes players during his skate Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Shelby Hyde/Cronkite News)
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The Coyotes and captain Shane Doan put another Valley sports icon on ice
GLENDALE — It didn’t take long for Josh Margulies, the Arizona Coyotes new vice-president of marketing, to realize how much of an icon Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is in the desert.
“Outside of John McCain, he may be the most famous person in Arizona,” Margulies said. “You turn on sports radio, they’re always talking about Larry Fitzgerald. You turn on the news on television, they’re talking about him. It’s hard to miss that with him.”
Margulies moved to the Valley of the Sun just six months ago from the Bay Area.
It also didn’t take Margulies, who moved to the Valley from the Bay Area six months ago very long to see an opportunity in Fitzgerald’s popularity with almost all Arizona sports fans.
He and the Coyotes decided to produce a cross-over bobblehead featuring Fitzgerald in a Coyotes sweater. The first 10,000 fans will receive a mini-Fitz at Saturday’s Coyotes game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Gila River Arena.
To promote the event, the Coyotes invited Fitzgerald to join Coyotes captain Shane Doan on the ice. Although Fitzgerald grew up in hockey country in Minnesota, he had never worn a pair of skates before.
“I played basketball when I grew up, so I never really had time to get on skates,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s always something I’ve wanted to do, but I just never tried it. It’s hard to even walk on regular ground with them.”
It was Fitzgerald’s idea to get on the ice, though.
“We thought it would be really fun to get him out to a practice,” Margulies said. “Originally, he was supposed to just watch practice. But he said, ‘hey I would like to take a slap shot.’ So I said ‘Let’s get you on the ice with Shane.’ ”
Margulies came up with the idea for the bobblehead after seeing a photo blow up of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson in a San Jose Sharks jersey.
It got Margulies to thinking about who would be the “pie in the sky,” coolest Arizona athlete that he could approach from one of the Valley’s other pro franchises.
“Obviously, Larry Fitzgerald was the first person to pop into my head,” Margulies said.
Fitzgerald was recently named co-winner of the Walter Payton Man of Year Award.
Perhaps the only Valley athlete as highly-regarded as Fitzgerald is Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who has been with the organization since the team relocated to Arizona from Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1996.
Doan, more than anyone, understands Fitzgerald’s standing with Arizona sports fans.
“As an athlete, you just appreciate his dedication to his sport, and the way that he handles himself off the ice is an impressive thing . . . well, off the field,” Doan said.
The respect is mutual.
“He’s stuck around a heck of a lot longer than I have,” said Fitzgerald, who announced Feb. 1 that he would return to the Cardinals for another season. “This community should be very thankful for his loyalty, his dedication. And I know he’s a great mentor for this (Coyotes) team. He’s selfless,” Fitzgerald said.
The Coyotes organization already had ties with Fitzgerald because he had taken part in past Coyotes events, and Margulies decided to reach out to Fitzgerald and his agent about the bobblehead.
The plan was to schedule the game on a night that landed on the 11th of a month, in reference to Fitzgerald’s No. 11 football number. Then the marketing gods did Margulies a favor.
“We had a game on the 11th of February and on the 11th of March, and the 11th of February happened to be against Pittsburgh,” he said.
Fitzgerald spent his college football years at the University of Pittsburgh.
“So we made the Pitt connection and thought that would be perfect,” Margulies said. “They were very receptive to it, and thought it would be a lot of fun.”
Fitzgerald posed for photos with the bobblehead and, much like when he is running routes, he didn’t miss the details.
“It came out good,” he said. “I have a good looking bobblehead. It’s got my hair, earrings, my big teeth.”