After years of long, traffic-clogged drives west on I-10 from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to suburban Glendale and annual stays at the Marriott next to the now-former home of the Arizona Coyotes, the Florida Panthers got to see another side of town when they arrived on Monday afternoon.
It is most definitely a new day for the Coyotes as they make their temporary home in Tempe at the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena which was built for the Arizona State University hockey team and other programs at the school.
While the Coyotes do not plan to stay at the small college arena more than a couple of years, they do hope to stay in town — and build a new arena and entertainment district in the bustling Tempe area.
After years of playing out in faraway Glendale, the Coyotes are now back on the east side of Phoenix where the team had hoped to build an arena years ago only to end up in an arena they were basically kicked out of following the end of last season.
There are a lot of politics and years of history into what happened in Glendale as well as the team’s potential future in Tempe.
The Panthers are not worried about any of that.
As most NHL teams are going to find out, trips to Arizona are now going to be a lot more convenient — and fun.
“Anything new is exciting because you get so routined in the NHL,” Paul Maurice said. “It’s the same thing, right? Anything out of the ordinary should be fun and we should enjoy it. It should be a great, intimate atmosphere in the smaller building but everyone one of these guys grew up playing great games in those kinds of buildings. I think we’re all looking forward to it.”
Unless a team stayed in downtown Phoenix or in Scottsdale and took the long drive to Glendale for games, finding things to do when in town were sort of a challenge.
Staying at a fancy hotel in Scottsdale, as the Panthers did on Monday, made life much more enjoyable.
Teams coming to South Florida have a similar dilemma now: Either stay on the beach in Fort Lauderdale and have plenty to do on off nights, or stay in Sunrise and, well, try and kill some time at Sawgrass Mills.
At least the five-star hotels in Fort Lauderdale offer a police escort to Sunrise before the game making the long drive from the beach a little quicker.
As far as the atmosphere goes, it would not take much to top the sterile environs of Glendale.
The New York Rangers, of all teams, seemed to enjoy the show.
And, the Panthers would certainly like to keep the visiting team’s winning streak going there.
The Coyotes are winless in the first two games at ASU so far, losing to San Jose and the Rangers.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW
Sasha Barkov has had a number of partners on his line over the years, but only a handful have been there multiple years.
There’s Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Huberdeau — and now Carter Verhaeghe.
“We both know we’re just getting started,’’ Barkov said, “and that’s the fun part of it.”
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— Hear from Maurice, Verhaeghe and Colin White following Monday’s practice in Sunrise on the FHN YouTube Channel which can be accessed RIGHT HERE or click on the video below.
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NATIONAL HOCKEY NOW
The Dallas Stars will be without goalie Jake Oettinger for the next week and he is not expected to join the team on their upcoming three-game trip.
— Is Linus Ullmark the No. 1 goalie for the Boston Bruins?
— Drew O’Connor is fitting right in with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
— Huberdeau left the Calgary Flames game in the first period of Saturday night’s game against Edmonton but returned after a short trip to the room.
Darryl Sutter explained it all pretty succinctly.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT ARIZONA COYOTES
- When: Tuesday, 10 p.m.
- Where: Arizona State Mullett Arena, Tempe
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Arizona leads 19-16-2, 3 ties