ARIZONA COYOTES

Mullett Arena a success for Coyotes on opening night despite defeat

Oct 28, 2022, 11:55 PM | Updated: Feb 3, 2023, 9:23 am

Mullett Arena, Arizona Coyotes, tempe...

Fans watch the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets during the second period of an NHL hockey game at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Ariz., Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. The Jets won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE — It was intimate, yet rowdy at Mullett Arena on Friday as the Arizona Coyotes (2-4-1) made their debut at the new multi-purpose arena, falling 3-2 in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets (5-3).

The arena was jam-packed with fans, many of whom donned the blonde mullet wigs the team placed on each seat prior to the game. Almost every seat was filled in the arena, with some empty seats in a few sections. However, the fans with those seats may have been utilizing the standing-room-only sections or club area above the benches.

The atmosphere was fantastic for the majority of the game and was ramped up pregame when Coyotes legend Shane Doan, along with his son Josh, an ASU star who was drafted by Arizona in 2021, dropped the ceremonial puck. The arena was even more charged up when Coyotes forward Christian Fischer scored the arena’s first NHL goal in the first period.

The arena felt somewhat like a small college basketball arena where the fans are on top of the action. It was loud and did not have the stale feel of games at now-Desert Diamond Arena. The small size of the arena allowed for it to be packed.

It felt like a group of friends getting together to watch a hockey game compared to a sometimes half-empty venue where fans were separated by many empty seats.

Jets happy with experience in Tempe

Much has been made about the locker room situation for the visiting team at Mullett Arena. While the NHL locker rooms are being completed, a temporary locker room has been set up for the visitors on top of the adjacent community rink. The rink is covered with rubber slabs and a curtain goes up around metal lockers.

Despite all of the talk in the media about the locker room situation, the Jets did not have complaints.

“Actually, our locker room was fine,” Winnipeg associate coach Scott Arniel said postgame. “It’s big, it’s wide open here.”

Jets forward Blake Wheeler echoed his coach.

“If you get lost in the surroundings or the locker room or whatever, you’re going to be distracted, not give yourself a chance to win,” Wheeler said. “So all-in-all, I think it was made out to be a lot worse than it actually was.

“And as long as you got a spot to put your gear on and talk about the game and I mean it really is a beautiful college hockey rink. So, I’ve played in way worse arenas for sure.”

Jets forward Cole Perfetti’s only real issue with the locker room situation was it being on top of the community rink. He said it was “a little chilly on the feet.”

As for the ice condition, both Wheeler and Perfetti praised it, with the latter saying it was much better than the ice at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, where the Jets faced the Kings on Thursday.

Atmosphere-wise, Perfetti liked what the small arena had to offer.

“It’s a good atmosphere,” Perfetti said. “Even in warmups when they’re right on top of you like that — all the fans, it’s exciting.”

UP NEXT

The Coyotes host the New York Rangers (3-3-2) on Sunday in Tempe at 5 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM and 98.7 FM HD-2, the Arizona Sports app and ArizonaSports.com.

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