PRESCOTT VALLEY – With a week off between the preseason
finale and regular-season opener, the Coyotes are in the
midst of a three-day trip here to fine-tune, to bond and
to focus on the start of the 2011-12 season as a group.
On Monday, the team practiced for an hour at Tim’s Toyota
Center, the home of the Central Hockey League’s Arizona
Sundogs. After the practice, the Coyotes greeted the fans
who came to watch practice and signed some autographs.
“We had a good practice today,” Head Coach Dave Tippett
said. “The players will have a little meal together
tonight and we’ll have a better practice tomorrow. We’ve
got some things we really want to work on tomorrow, so
we’ll come in here and work and head back to Phoenix.”
I asked Tippett what he thought of the arena, which holds
5,200 for a Sundogs game.
“This is a beautiful building,” he said. “From my time
coaching in the minors you see a lot of buildings that are
smaller venues, but you always like to see the smaller
venues that have a big venue feel only just in smaller
scale. This is great with the seats and the suites around.
It’s a very, very nice arena.”
Tippett said returning to Prescott Valley for future
training camps is a no-brainer, if the preseason schedule
allows for such a journey.
The trip to Prescott Valley is the brainchild of General
Manager Don Maloney and Assistant General Manager Brad
Treliving. With several new players on the roster, Maloney
and Treliving thought a team-bonding trip would be a good
idea before the season starts at San Jose on Saturday
The Coyotes kicked off the three-day venture with a golf
outing on Sunday at the Sunridge Golf Course. The players
were divided into groups of four (or five) and a good time
was had by all under ideal weather conditions.
Ray Whitney and Derek Morris displayed keen golf skills,
but Paul Bissonnette was dressed most like a PGAer.
Bissonnette said he and his playing partners – Raffi
Torres, Kyle Chipchura, Taylor Pyatt and Nathan Oystrick –
had a blast on the links.
“I think the winning group was 18-under but I think our
group had the most fun,” Bissonnette said. “We had a
pretty greasy fivesome; a lot of fourth-liners and a lot
of meat and potatoes guys. We had some fun.”
Monday’s practice was a nice experience for defenseman
David Schlemko, who played for the Sundogs in 2007-08 when
they won the CHL championship.
Schlemko led the Coyotes at center ice as they stretched
before Monday’s practice, and that honor was not lost on
the fans who attended.
“Way to go Schlemmy!” one of them yelled, prompting the
other fans to applaud and Schlemko’s teammates to bang
their sticks on the ice in approval.
“It’s cool to be back here and see this town again,” said
Schlemko, who had 10 goals and 29 assists in 58 games for
the Sundogs in ’07-08. “It’s a little bit surreal coming
back in this dressing room. The last time I was in here we
had just won a championship so it brings back some good
memories. That was my first year pro and we got treated
very well here. It’s a first class organization and we won
a championship. You don’t forget that.”
Bissonnette added: “It was cool to see Schlemko get a nice
ovation when he led the team stretch. I’m sure it brought
back some good memories of him lighting the lamp here when
he was just a young pup.”
The Coyotes will practice at Tim’s Toyota Center again on
Tuesday at 10 a.m. and then take the 90-minute ride back
to the Valley.
“This trip has been great so far,” captain Shane Doan
said. “It’s fun to be able to do something as a group
outside of the rink. Playing golf together and hanging out
together like this will help us develop camaraderie. We
have a great group of guys this year and when you like
each other it seems you play harder for each other.”