The Coyotes won their 500th regular-season game since moving to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996 on Wednesday night when they beat the Dallas Stars, 3-2, in overtime.
Big deal? It is for me, a former season-ticket holder turned team employee.
There’s nothing like a milestone to trigger fond memories. When it comes to this NHL team’s time in Phoenix, I have many.
In 1996, I was one of many hockey fans in the desert thrilled that the NHL was coming to my city. A friend and I bought season tickets for the Coyotes right away. Our seats were unique, located in the area directly below the “balcony” that extended over the ice at the south end of what used to be called America West Arena in downtown Phoenix. It was extremely fun watching games from that cozy nook. I’m guessing it seated less than 100 people.
For trivia buffs reading this, the team posted its first of its 500 regular-season victories (and counting) as the Coyotes on Oct. 7, 1996 in Boston vs. the Bruins. The score was 5-2. The team’s first home win came three nights later when the Coyotes beat the San Jose Sharks, 4-1, in an electric atmosphere I can recall quite vividly. I still have the ticket from the first home game. It’s hanging behind me in my office as I type this blog.
I can remember attending many, many other wins for the Phoenix Coyotes over the past 15 years but I’ll spare you my memories so you can focus on some of yours.
• I went to the team’s optional practice on Thursday at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. It was pretty low-key; only about a third of the players attended.
Center Vernon Fiddler, who returned to the lineup on Wednesday after nursing an upper-body injury for three-plus weeks, was there and skated. After the workout I asked him how he felt the day after playing his first game since Jan. 15.
“It was good to get back in,” said Fiddler, who logged 9:29 of ice time. “Obviously you’re a little tentative at the beginning because you don’t really know what to expect. It’s just all about confidence. As the game went on I trusted it a little bit more and more and I felt better and better. It felt like my legs were there although it’s going to take me a few games to get me all the way back to where they were. Overall I thought it was a good first game back.”
• Forward Paul Bissonnette was in the lineup for the eighth consecutive game on Wednesday, which is a nice streak for him considering he was in and out of the lineup over the first three months of the season.
“I’ve been playing physical,” Bissonnette said when I asked him what he thought the key to him staying in the lineup had been. “Last night wasn’t a good example because I didn’t play much – I just kind of got lost in the game with the penalties, and being on the road and the matchups – but I’m just trying to be a factor and be noticed in a positive way. It just seems like I have to be on my game in every game. One bad game for me and I’ll be out of the lineup again. It’s do or die.”
• Defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who has missed the past four games because of an upper-body injury, practiced on Thursday. He is day-to-day.
• Defenseman David Schlemko, who has missed 10 games since absorbing a brutal hit to the head from San Jose’s Scott Nichol on Jan. 17, has started skating. He is hoping to rejoin the team at practice next week.
• Coyotes prospect Mark Visentin was named the Canadian Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Week for the week ending Feb. 6. In two starts Visentin posted two wins including a shutout victory with a goals-against-average of 1.00 and a save percentage of .967. The Coyotes selected Visentin with the 27th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft.
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For information on upcoming Phoenix Coyotes games, please visit http://coyotes.nhl.com