The pregame music and video have two purposes. One, get the crowd pumped up and into the game. The second, really get the crowd pumped up and on their feet to welcome the Coyotes onto the ice. Ushers pull the black curtains to close off the entrance ways from the concourse. The lights go out and the pregame music stops. There is no one on the ice. It is dark in the arena. Suddenly, the music hits and light show starts. Strobes and rafter lights spring to life. Two outlined Coyote head logos are illuminated near center ice. Drum beats pound, and hard rock music lets you know it is time to get ready to rumble.
The music ends, the lights are on. The ice shines with the bright white lights from overhead. The crowd starts to applaud in anticipation of the boys walking from their locker room, past Toyota Club, making a left turn and then a quick right. From there, they can see the ice. The Coyotes put a camera there now so we can see Mike Smith leading the team out the tunnel and onto the ice. The crowd erupts. Fans get on their feet as the in-game announcer Paul Surra welcomes the 2011-2012 Phoenix Coyotes to the ice.
A couple of quick laps on their half the ice before they find their spot on the bench. Except the starting five. They have to control their energy and emotion for the National Anthem sung by Patrick Lauder or special guest singer(s). Immediately after Patrick finished, the honor guard and Patrick exit from the referee tunnel to the north. The rugs are rolled up and removed. It is time for puck drop.
New every year is the entrance music and video featuring players. Players come and go (except for Shane. He is a Coyote for life). I happen to love the video of the players taping their sticks and putting on their equipment. The shots of the big hits on the ice are great, but those should be reserved for keeping the crowd into the game during television time outs.
If you get to the arena early, warmups are entertaining and the appetizer for the big meal. Pulsating music as the Coyotes hit the ice. The assistant equipment manager pushes the pyramid of pucks he stacked on the board in front of the team bench minutes earlier onto the ice. Tony Silva and Stan Wilson stand behind the bench, ready to help any player with equipment issues.
The goalies skate in clockwise circles with the players for a couple of laps. Players pick up a puck and fire it toward and into the net. They settle down and start the drills. A staple of every age level, the horseshoe. Players look at the crowd, scanning for familiar faces, kids. Signs with their name. On the west side, someone always has a sign in Czeck for Hanzal and Vrbata. “Yandle Light The Candle” on the east side. We rotate our signs. From “Bissonnette, an old Indian name for face puncher.” to “In Doan We Trust” or many others. Sign making passes for art instruction in my house.
3-2 drills, individual passing in the neutral zone breaks out after a few more laps. Goalies are changed during each drill. Near the end, Mike Smith is in goal. Jason LaBarbera is on the west side, near the boards. Shane shoots high on Jason. Jason catches it and then passes it back to Shane. This is repeated several times. Jason acts similar to a pitchback. No one else does this with Jason. It is Shane’s drill.
Adrian Aucoin then starts wristing the puck off the boards and glass near the blue line. Turn, shoot at the west side. Gather the rebound, turn and shoot at the east side. The puck hits the glass with force and a sharp crack, taking unsuspecting fans by surprise. The sly smile on Adrian’s face tells a story. Yandle lingers near the east side, practicing his stick handling. Cupping the puck, sliding it from forehand to backhand. All while his teammates are pounding long shots on Smitty in rapid fire drill. Left to right he moves, blocking each shot, catching those airborne and dropping them to his side. The drills end with the team packing it around Smitty, who is down in butterfly position, as they pound away at the pucks in front of him, simulating the scrum in front of the net. As quickly as it started, they players turn and skate away. Most head down the tunnel and back to the locker room. A few stay out. Paul works on his shots and passing to fellow forwards streaking toward the goal. OEL and Keith feed Lauri cutting to the net. And Shane. Always the last off the ice. He gathers a puck or two and throws them over the glass to a kid. Every time. Without fail.
They skate off as the game clock on the video board stars counting down from 17 minutes. A buzzer goes off at 5 minutes. At 2 minutes, you feel it in the arena. At 1 minute, hit the video. Opening Video