Arizona Coyotes: An Opening Night Guide For Casual Fans

Dec 29, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Arizona Coyotes celebrate after beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Arizona Coyotes celebrate after beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Arizona Coyotes will open the 2016-17 NHL season on Saturday night at Gila River Arena. For those of you that haven’t attended a Coyotes home opener, or any hockey game for that matter, you can’t afford to miss it.

The Arizona Coyotes will begin their campaign at 6:00 P.M. on Saturday night at Gila River Arena against one of the powers in the eastern conference, the Philadelphia Flyers.

For everyone from the most devoted Arizona Coyotes fan to the casual observer who’s never attended an ice hockey game, this is a can’t-miss event. It’s part Hollywood, part ice hockey.

Much of the crowd has been breathlessly waiting for hockey to start since the regular season ended last April. The inevitable Flyers fans attending the game will also be cheering on their team. This brings forth friendly rivalries in the arena.

Coyotes players are also anxious to start their season. After preparing all summer and fighting for roster spots during training camp, the team is finally ready to get out on the ice.

And then there’s the implementation of ‘Coyotes 2.0.’

Chalk this up to a marketing initiative by the Arizona Coyotes organization. It’s a way to differentiate between what was Coyotes hockey the old way, and Coyotes hockey now after 20 years in Arizona.

But there’s a ring of truth to this campaign that actually does separate it from all of the other endless taglines and slogans.

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This team does have skill, power, and even some swagger this season. After several years, they’re a confident bunch due to growth and several promising off-season moves.

They know that Arizona residents are ready for a winner, and this team feels like they can offer that.

The Coyotes are poised for a playoff run and to be the darlings of Arizona ahead of the Cardinals, Suns, and Diamondbacks.

If you’re lucky enough to arrive to the game early, you can watch the Coyotes players warm up. Captain Shane Doan and some others will likely be tossing pucks to the young kids down by the glass.

Doan handing your child a puck is a rite of passage at Coyotes games.

Coyotes players, like defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski, along with forwards Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, and Martin Hanzal, will also be mere feet away on the other side of the glass.

Fans can get closer to Coyotes players than they can the players of any other Arizona sports team.

Before the game begins, each player is introduced to the crowd, an exciting moment in any ice hockey player’s career. It’s a lot like how the Arizona Cardinals players come out on to the field, except the whole team is introduced and, well, this is cooler.

Then the Valley’s own Patrick Lauder, who first sung the National Anthem at a Coyotes game 20 years ago, emerges onto the ice and leads the crowd in our nation’s song. Lauder has become a Phoenix institution and a fixture in Coyotes lore.

Fans know just when to let loose their trademark Coyotes howl.

When the puck drops, the energy level has reached a crescendo and our team is off to the races.

When the Arizona Coyotes score, get ready to join the crowd chanting about the opposing team’s goaltender. Hockey crowds are an especially vocal bunch.

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In between periods, we have our hot chocolate and doughnut holes from Tim Hortons. And hold onto them tight during the game, so you’re ready to catch the occasional puck that is sent into the crowd.

Ice hockey is the most fun, most entertaining sport to watch live. It’s the ultimate team sport. Once you go to an Arizona Coyotes game, you’ll want to keep going back.