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Florida Panthers Meet Coyotes in Cozy Confines of Mullett Arena

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Panthers coyotes
Fans watch as players warm up prior to the Arizona Coyotes' first game in the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena in Tempe on Oct. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

The Florida Panthers visit the Coyotes in the NHL’s smallest and most unusual barn tonight.

The temporary home of the Coyotes is the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena. 

The building is not only on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe but was built for the Sun Devils’ fledgling hockey team. 

This is Arizona’s second season there, and they have a contract to play in Tempe through next season. 

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If the Coyotes stay in Arizona, then their stay in Tempe will be longer because Arizona’s perpetual quest for a viable home in the Valley continues. 

Over the years, the Arizona team has dealt with ownership changes, a league takeover, bankruptcies, litigation, and a poorly located arena where they were no longer welcome. 

Home attendance in the final season at the Gila River Arena in Glendale was the lowest in the 25 seasons the Coyotes had in Arizona, excluding the pandemic year. 

Prior seasons showed there is a decent fan base in the Phoenix area.

The Coyotes played in downtown Phoenix for their first seven seasons at America West Arena, a modern facility that was not designed for an NHL team. 

The contentious 19-year relationship between the Coyotes and the City of Glendale ended when they played their final game at Gila River Arena on April 29, 2022.  

They planned to play at Arizona State University’s new multi-purpose arena for the next three seasons. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reminded everyone this was not the first time a team occupied temporary quarters, using Florida as an example. 

The Miami Arena, which housed under 15,000 for hockey, was never expected to be the permanent home of the Panthers. 

“Temporary buildings happen,” Bettman said, referencing the Panthers and Tampa Bay’s start at temporary sites. 

The big difference is these arenas had a capacity far greater than the ASU facility. 

Tempe is closer to the team’s fan base, but with only 4,600 seats, ticket and concession revenues are capped and will be a financial problem if the Coyotes make the playoffs. 

Every game has been a sellout this season.

A permanent home for the Coyotes is still an uncertainty.

The team achieved a degree of financial stability when billionaire Alex Meruelo became majority owner in 2019. 

A group headed by Meruelo proposed a $1.7 billion mixed-use development project on a city-owned 46-acre site in Tempe with a state-of-the-art arena as the centerpiece. 

Tempe voters ultimately rejected the proposal in a special election last May.

The search for a home in the Valley continues.

In August, Meruelo executed a letter of intent to purchase a parcel of land in northwest Mesa.

News from team sources suggest that a formal announcement will come early in 2024.

The deal is expected to be structured so as to avoid a public vote.

Meanwhile, the on-ice product is much improved. 

Arizona would be the second wild card in the Western Conference if the season ended today. 

It would be only the second playoff appearance in the last twelve seasons.

Although they have no breakout scorers, young veterans like Clayton Keller, Lawson Crouse, and Nick Schmaltz are steady producers. 

Young defenseman Sean Durzi, acquired in the offseason from Los Angeles, is having his best season and recently posted a four-point game against Colorado.

Veteran Matt Dumba adds experience to the defense.

The power play is top ten, and the penalty kill is mid-pack. Both are improved from last season.

The goaltending duo of Karel Vejmelka and Connor Ingram have not posted outstanding numbers. 

Still, their goals-against stats have improved significantly from last season, and they are playing well enough to earn the Coyotes a few extra wins.

Coach André Tourigny is in his third full season and has proven that he can develop young players.

The Coyotes are no longer perennial pushovers — especially on home ice where they are 12-5 thus far this season.

Tonight should be a tight battle.

Remember, the Panthers lost their first game to the Coyotes at Mullett last season.

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ ARIZONA COYOTES

  • When: Tuesday, 9 p.m.
  • Where: Mullett Arena at Arizona State University, 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, NHL app
  • Season Series — At Arizona: Tuesday. At Florida: Jan. 24.
  • Last Season: Tied 1-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Arizona leads 20-17-2, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Vegas Golden Knights, 10 p.m.

 

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