SCOTTSDALE – The new Mullett Arena has brought excitement and a burst of energy to the Arizona Coyotes. As each player approached the microphone for media day Wednesday before the start of training camp, their eyes lit up when they spoke about their new home and its potential for the 2022-23 season.
The Coyotes’ Mullett Arena debut on Oct. 28 cannot come soon enough as the momentum builds throughout the organization, which left Glendale’s Gila River Arena after last season.
The new arena will have a college feel, featuring a smaller capacity on ASU’s lively and social Tempe campus. The Coyotes are hoping the fans will be engaged and ready to watch exciting hockey games in the intimate setting, with all 5,000 seats located in the arena’s lower bowl.
“I think it’s gonna be crazy and loud,” winger Lawson Crouse said. “I took a tour of that place a week and a half ago, and the rink’s beautiful. From a fan’s perspective, I think it’ll be, you know, probably one of the best places in the league to be involved to watch a game that close, and I think it’s good because it’ll be able to see how fast the game truly is. If you talk to fans and sit down at the glass seats, that’s usually what they kind of tell you is they don’t realize how fast it is.”
Coyotes forward Clayton Keller, who played one season of college hockey at Boston University, is looking forward to the environment and believes the new rink will turn some eyes across the NHL.
“I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Keller said. “Obviously, smaller building, but hopefully the fans are really engaged and, you know, it’s like a new chapter of hockey in Arizona. We’re out of Glendale and into Tempe. So, I think everyone’s excited. And now I think there’ll be a lot more eyes and a lot of people talking more about hockey here.”
“I think if you’re a fan and you go in there, (the hockey) is so close to you,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said. “The way it’s designed, there’s not a bad seat in the house. It’s an exciting time for fans. It’s a 5,000-seat arena, and you get to watch NHL stars come through there and you get to watch a Coyotes team that comes in there kicking, scrapping and fighting every night.”
The Coyotes and their fans have waited since April 29 to see their favorite team play hockey live from Arizona. The official start day of the NHL season is Oct. 11 but fans won’t be able to see the team’s home debut until the end of the month.
Due to sharing an arena with the ASU Sun Devils hockey team, the Coyotes will start the year on a six-game road trip and play 20 of their first 24 games on the road. Coyotes coach André Tourigny isn’t sweating the tough road schedule to open the season. He views each game one at a time.
“If you look at the big picture, that will be a challenge,” Tourigny said. “The only thing you can control is today, and it’s always the way I approach it. That’s the way I answered last year and the way I will answer next year – to live in the present and win the day.”
Crouse, entering his seventh year with the Coyotes, is excited for the early season road trip and getting to know some of his new teammates. Arizona acquired Zack Kassian, Nick Bjugstad, Troy Stecher, Patrik Nemeth, and Josh Brown this summer via free agency and trades, and all players will have the opportunity to build chemistry and bonds during the road trip.
“Whether you’re going out to dinner before or getting to know some of the newer guys, it’s really a chance to bond as a group,” Crouse said. “We’re together, whether you’re on the plane, at the rink and (in) meetings. So it’s definitely a great opportunity for a group to continue to grow closer as it’s definitely going to be a hard stretch. But I think we’re all ready for it.”
Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton, who just signed a new two-year contract, views the early season road games as a chance to grow as a team and establish a good camaraderie and culture.
“We have a bunch of new guys and when you’re on the road, it’s awesome,” Hayton said. “Everyone spends pretty much every second together so it’s a lot of fun. You grow the team so much. And yeah, I think it’ll be great.”
The first day of training camp starts Thursday at the Ice Den Scottsdale as the team prepares for its first preseason game Saturday against the St. Louis Blues at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
With the Coyotes entering another season in rebuild mode, many NHL experts expect the Coyotes to finish near the bottom of the league standings. Coyotes management and Armstrong do not want the outside noise to affect the team and its ultimate goal.
“I tried to address the group this morning and just say, ‘Listen, the odds are stacked against us,’” Armstrong said. “The media, you know, the league looks at us like we’re going to take a step back. So that’s not the case. We’ve got to take a step forward.”