Resignation reigns as Coyotes brace for potential Arizona finale, move to Utah: ‘One last game at home’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The team did its best to make everything seem business as usual Tuesday, to limit questions to “hockey-related” inquiries, but on the eve of what could very well be the final game of The history of the Arizona Coyotes, there were just so many ways to keep up appearances.

Amid the familiar sound of pucks slamming against the glass and sticks hitting the ice inside the Coyotes’ practice facility, the Ice Den, conversations took place among team staff about the possibility of ‘a trip planned for early next week to visit what now seems inevitable. to be their new home in Salt Lake City – about who could stay or go.

As the Coyotes prepared for Wednesday’s season finale against the Edmonton Oilers and owner Alex Meruelo continued his final negotiations on a deal that would see him liquidate the organization’s hockey assets, a sense of resignation The way forward was clear.

“The spirit of the message for us is to live it all,” Coyotes head coach André Tourigny said of the approach his group is taking as it likely plays one final game in the arena. Mullett. “We want to play our last match with class, with respect. Deliver the best the crowd can expect. We want to make sure we are remembered as a group that fought to the last ounce of our bodies.

They have little choice given the unusual circumstances in which they find themselves.

The Coyotes were preparing for a game in Vancouver last Wednesday when news of their potentially imminent move to Salt Lake City for next season began to surface in the media. Veteran forward Lawson Crouse, who played all 503 of his NHL games with Arizona, said he and his teammates learned of their plight through social media.

“To block out all the noise, I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty hard to do,” Crouse said. “But we did an incredible job. So, one more.

There was a distinct feeling that players and coaches were still largely kept in the dark about plans finalized above them in the owner’s suite, even though everyone made available during a carefully organized on Tuesday were careful not to say anything that could be interpreted. as a criticism of how this release was handled.

“I can’t really comment on that,” Crouse said. “I don’t know the logistics or anything about it.”

The Coyotes have spent the past two seasons playing in the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University, recording twice as many wins overall (42) as on the road (21).

This was a temporary solution while Meruelo moved forward with building an NHL-quality arena in the area. This progress never happened. Yet despite facility frustrations and a tense ownership situation, emotions were clearly mixed among the players as they prepared for what is likely one last lap around Mullett.

“It definitely feels like we have the advantage playing there,” veteran forward Alex Kerfoot said. “We obviously only have one left, so it’ll be fun to give them a show – one last home game – and just thank them for all the support they’ve given us.”

It will be an unprecedented scene in the NHL in the age of social media, as the Thrashers’ move from Atlanta to Winnipeg in 2011 occurred more than six weeks after they played their last game at Philips Arena.

The Coyotes have endured 28 torturous years in the desert since arriving from Winnipeg – marked by property instability, bankruptcy court hearings and being kicked out of their last home in Glendale for unpaid bills – but they have also established their roots here. .

Wednesday’s ticket is hot. The cost of seats available on StubHub Tuesday evening ranged between $400 and $4,499. Fans gathered in the parking lot before the team’s final practice to shake hands with players and staff as they arrived.

“Arizona is my home,” Crouse said. “In the eight years (I played here), they supported us tremendously through all the ups and downs. They mean so much not only to me but to all my teammates. I am grateful to have them on our side.

“We will certainly be moved,” added Tourigny.

All signs point to this being an unceremonious goodbye.

The NHL has scheduled a virtual call with its board of governors for Thursday, according to league sources, during which a formal vote could take place to move the franchise’s hockey operations department to Salt Lake City if the deal was reached. finalized by then.

In the meantime, for the players and staff, there is one match left on the program. Just look at Edmonton’s 9-2 dismantling of San Jose on Monday to see how bad things could get if they lose sight of the task at hand. And so the goal of this final workout was to try to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“If we don’t show up and play a good hockey game, it’s going to ruin everything,” Tourigny said. “The support from the fans last week and the atmosphere around this game tomorrow and the people talking about this game, that’s what fuels me. The people have been (nothing) but fantastic for us, so we want to be fantastic for them.

(Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

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