GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson started the rumor mill churning when his letter applying the Sun Devils hockey team for membership in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference went public. In that letter, dated June 10, Anderson wrote: “Our administration currently plans to have an arena by the start of the 2018-19 season…”
Did this mean the Sun Devils were moving forward without a rumored partnership with the Coyotes, since the time frame is one year shorter than what the Coyotes have estimated construction of a new arena would require?
Or, were the Coyotes and ASU planning an announcement soon on a project set for launch?
The answer is neither. Notice the wording in Anderson’s letter; specifically, the word ‘currently.’ In an ideal world, ASU would like to have an arena in place for the 2018-19 season. That doesn’t mean it will or has to happen, and there are other options if it takes a year longer, such as playing conference games at Gila River Arena for a year.
ASU officials have kept quiet about any potential partnership with the Coyotes for a variety of reasons, but when asked directly if this letter meant ASU had closed the door on a possible partnership with the Coyotes, Anderson said: “All options are on the table and a two-year time frame is doable.”
The Coyotes are still likely more comfortable with a three-year time frame given the amount of work that still has to be done before the shovels go in the ground, but it’s worth noting that Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena was built in just under two years. Construction began on May 1, 2014, and concluded on April 6, 2016.
The Coyotes bolstered their coaching staff on Wednesday by announcing the full-time hires of Mike Van Ryn, Steve Potvin and Dawn Braid, who is the first full-time female coaching hire in NHL history. Van Ryn will serve as the team’s development coach, Potvin will be the team’s skills coach and Braid is the skating coach.
Braid has worked with the Coyotes on a part-time basis for a number of years and was part of the team’s development camp. She and Van Ryn both worked with a number of prospects for a week after the camp ended.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity with the Coyotes,” Braid said, via the Coyotes’ website. “I’m looking forward to working with Dave Tippett and his coaching staff and all the great players in the organization.
“It’s something that I’ve wanted to see happen. The fact that they respect what I do enough to name me as a full-time coach, or to name me as the first female coach in the NHL, I take a ton of pride in that. I’ve worked very hard for this opportunity. It’s been going on for years and I just look forward to going even further with it.”
Braid previously worked as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames. Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as its director of skating development where she instructed a variety of skaters including New York Islanders center John Tavares.
Last year, the Buffalo Bills hired Kathryn Smith as their quality control coach, making her the first full-time NFL assistant coach. The NBA has had two female assistant coaches: San Antonio’s Becky Hammon and Sacramento’s Nancy Lieberman.
A year ago, the Cardinals’ Jen Welter became the first woman to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL when she served as an intern for the preseason.
Van Ryn was Coach of the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) in 2015-16, after serving as associate coach from 2013-15. The former NHL defenseman played 353 career games with the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Van Ryn will assist Coyotes director of player development Steve Sullivan in amateur player development and will work with coaches and players in Tucson (AHL) during the season.
Potvin’s main focus will be player assessment and individual skill improvement. He played 478 professional games between the AHL and Europe.
ASSISTANT GM ON BACKBURNER
When the Coyotes hired John Chayka as their general manager, the desire was also to add an experienced assistant general manager to shepherd Chayka through the processes with which he was less familiar. The Coyotes still hope to add that piece at some point, but a team source said it is no longer a priority and it is conceivable, perhaps even likely that the Coyotes will enter the 2016-17 season without that position filled.
The Coyotes feel confident enough in their hockey operations department of Gary Drummond, Dave Tippett, Chayka and Chris O’Hearn, along with other hires to provide experience, depth and expertise. The Coyotes are not currently engaged in discussions with anyone about the assistant GM position, but if the right fit comes along, the belief is they could move quickly.
— Keep an eye on that Glendale Mayoral primary between incumbent Jerry Weiers and opponent Mark Burdick on Tuesday. The Coyotes are focused on finding a home in the East Valley, but if the guy sitting in the Mayor’s chair changes, their relationship with the City of Glendale could thaw considerably.