Hopefully this is the first in a series of new posts on CTP Hockey about memorable or epic away days following the sport we love. This post is about my very first trip to Arizona to see my beloved Coyotes. Having watched the Coyotes from across the Atlantic since their arrival in Phoenix, it has been a long long wait to see the Coyotes play in person. Like most NHL fans, when the schedule is announced, you look for homestands to make a trip worthwhile.
A few things came up, away from hockey, that meant a trip was planned for my wife and I, to go to Arizona in January 2017, our week long trip would see us take in two NHL games and two AHL games. We would see the Coyotes play the Kings and Blackhawks and, the Coyotes AHL farm team the Tucson Roadrunners playing two games at Gila River Arena. After 20+ years following the team, the time came to get on that plane and head to the desert!
Much has been made of the Coyotes struggles to fill the arena in Glendale, the arena is north west of the city of Phoenix, probably around a 30minute drive in good traffic and, is in an area which has a shopping mall, restaurants, bars and the massive University of Phoenix stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals NFL team. As a setting, it is perfect, plenty of parking, all the food/drink and entertainment options surrounding the arena, great atmosphere to relax and enjoy the build up to a game and even post game. So, great setting…….wrong location!
Anyway, after so very many years of waiting the first game day arrived, waking up with such excitement we got to GRA early to enjoy the desert winter sun and some food. Relaxing around the fountain in some rather nice sofa’s my wife and I made use of the free wifi. We were a few hours before faceoff at this point, seeing all the Coyote jerseys walking around. It was at this point that the bombshell dropped. My wife and I were Manchester Phoenix fans, holding season tickets for every year of their existence. Most people reading probably have an idea what happened but, in the Arizona sun, hours from seeing the NHL team I love for the first time, the team I loved in the UK shut it’s doors for good and folded. A bitter sweet day and then some im sure you can agree!
We shed a fair few tears on those sofa’s waiting for the game, the Phoenix were the second team I supported to go bust (first being original Storm) and, to be honest, my love for the sport in the UK died at the same time!
With heavy hearts we picked ourselves up and walked the short distance to GRA, determined to enjoy my first Coyote NHL game!
Seeing the NHL live is something else, the skill, speed, quality and the overall show is so much slicker than what we are used to in the UK, of course money helps make a difference but it’s still a great show! Seeing the Coyotes take to the ice, the red moon rising, the goal horn and howl, I’ll be honest, brought a tear to my eye. Our view from the upper deck was awesome, you could see entire plays develop, see the skill on show. Wearing my (Manchester) Phoenix shirt brought a lot of attention too, the strange logo and all the adverts were a favorite topic. Amongst the first questions we were asked was, why the Coyotes? Made me smile but, most people were surprised how much of a fanbase the Coyotes have across the pond!
Being a Coyote fan for so long has also allowed me to build up friendships with Arizona natives so, this trip also gave me a chance to meet up with some of those people and put faces to names! It was a true honor to meet these people and join in the fun! It was an amazing day, bitter/sweet because I lost the Phoenix the same day, plus the Coyotes lost L but still, finally seeing my NHL team after watching from a far will go down as one of the best memories in my life! Hopefully it will not be a long wait until next time, besides, this Coyote team is on the rise!