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Jersey exchange seeks to build new generation of Coyotes fans

From left, Arizona Coyotes' Mikkel Boedker, of Denmark, Martin Hanzal, of the Czech Republic, Max Domi, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, of Sweden, and Anthony Duclair celebrate Ekman-Larsson's goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes marketing department surveyed fans outside Gila River Arena over a recent five-game home stretch. They focused on Arizona residents wearing other teams’ jerseys, asking them two simple questions.

Are the Coyotes your second favorite team? Which team do your kids support?

“Most of them said ‘yes’ to the first question,” Coyotes Chief Marketing Officer John Pierce said. “But when we asked ‘who are your kids rooting for’ only 38 percent said the Coyotes while 38 percent said ‘my team’ and the rest named random other teams.

“You might think that a 50-50 split is pretty good, but that’s not good enough. We have to have kids growing up here rooting for their hometown team.”

The Coyotes are taking a proactive approach to achieving that goal. The team will launch its “Raising Coyotes” jersey exchange on Friday at Gila River Arena when the Coyotes host the Calgary Flames. Adults can exchange any jersey from other active NHL teams for a replica Coyotes jersey for each child (14 and under) present with the adult. There is a limit of eight jerseys per adult.

The exchange will continue on Feb. 15 against the Montreal Canadiens, and on Feb. 20 against the St. Louis Blues. Fans can exchange their jerseys at the Fanatics mobile trailer, which will be stationed on the Gate 4 plaza at the north end of Gila River Arena prior to those games from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Future “Raising Coyotes” jersey exchange dates will be announced in late February.

In an extension of the program, the team also announced that all kids 14 and under will be admitted free with the purchase of any regularly priced adult ticket for lower level or upper level end seats for all remaining regular season home games during the 2015-16 season. Fans can obtain tickets at the Gila Arena Box office or via Ticketmaster.

“There were 74,000 new residents in Maricopa County alone last year,” Pierce said. “We know people are moving here and bringing their allegiances with them. You can eyeball it by seeing the fans here from other teams.

“We’re not trying to change those allegiances. That’s where they grew up, but if the kids grow up here they should have the opportunity to root for their hometown team that their parents did. We don’t really care how many jerseys we collect. The point isn’t to get these jerseys off the street. The point is to get more kids wearing Coyotes jerseys.”

There was some debate about what to do with the opponents’ jerseys the Coyotes collect.

“We had some people suggest that we burn them,” Pierce said, laughing. “We’re not going to do that. That’s not respectful. We’re one of 30 NHL teams and we’re proud of all the teams.”

Instead, the Coyotes will donate the jerseys to Defending The Blue Line, a non-profit organization that works to engage children of military members in the game of hockey.

Flames at Coyotes

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale

TV: FOX Sports Arizona

Radio: ESPN 620 AM

Season series: Coyotes lead, 2-0

Probable goalies: Flames — Jonas Hiller. Coyotes — Louis Domingue

Injury report:  Flames — G Karri Ramo was injured Thursday during a collision with the Sharks’ Joonas Donskoi in San Jose and will be re-evaluated today, but the injury does appear to be significant. Coyotes — C Boyd Gordon (upper body) is week to week. G Mike Smith (abdominal surgery) and F Joe Vitale (concussion symptoms) are out.

Scouting the Flames: The three forwards who were scratched Tuesday for being late to practice Monday — Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Lance Bouma — were back in the lineup Thursday in San Jose. The Calgary Sun reported that Monahan and Gaudreau were practicing with normal linemate Jiri Hudler on Wednesday before Calgary was set to face San Jose on Thursday. … The Flames have won three in a row and four of five since the All-Star break. … Big offseason acquisition Dougie Hamilton has two goals and five points in his last five games. … Gaudreau leads the team with 21 goals and 51 points. … No timeframe has been set for the suspension of D Dennis Wideman after he cross-checked a linesman on Jan. 27.

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