By Rochelle Romero
The Arizona Coyotes’ season ended without qualifying for the playoffs but that hasn’t stopped fans from being excited about the team’s future in Arizona.
Reports suggest the team could relocate to Tempe and share a new arena with the Arizona State hockey team. With a deal possible in the next few months, many hockey fans believe a move to the East Valley is the right choice.
Season ticket-holder Andrew Herring would like to see the NHL team move to Tempe.
“I think that’s exactly what they need,” the Gilbert resident said at a recent game against Florida that attracted more than 14,000 fans. “Ideal, mainly since a majority of the Coyote fans are from the East Valley. Traveling all the way out to Glendale is not easy.”
If the partnership goes through, Herring said he’d be more inclined to watch college hockey.
“But if it was in Tempe I would definitely go to a lot more games,” Herring said. “I might even do season tickets for that. I love hockey. If it’s closer to me, I’ll go see more games.”
This past year, the Arizona State hockey team officially made the transfer to become a NCAA Division I team.
The Sun Devils opened their season with an exhibition game at Gila River Arena and went 5-22 against strong Division I competition.
ASU already has received nine commitments from hockey prospects across the nation waiting to join the new program this upcoming season and seven over the next two seasons.
While their home ice, Oceanside Arena in Tempe, may not be the flashy rink that draws in prospects, a joint arena with the Coyotes could bring more buzz and a larger audience.
Arizona native Chelsea Wilkinson has been a Coyotes fan since the franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996.
The 27-year-old is excited for the potential new partnership and believes the teams can benefit from one another.
“The Sun Devils getting a hockey program going NCAA is definitely a huge step for them, and for the Coyotes to support that is even bigger,” Wilkinson said. “It’s awesome to have hockey as a community combine into one.”
The Phoenix resident thinks the Coyotes can capitalize by moving to the Tempe area.
“They have a huge college fan base out there,” Wilkinson said. “Just like the NFL (and) how they grabbed a lot of their Cardinals fans from being in Tempe. I think that they’re going to do the same thing with having ASU kids support the Coyotes and being in that Tempe area where it’s easy for them to get to.”
With continued struggles to secure a lease in Glendale, the idea of a joint arena is starting to look like the best alternative.
Dustin Calvert, 22, isn’t too keen on the idea to move the team so far east.
“Personally, I don’t want them to go to Tempe because it’s too far,” Calvert said. “I’d rather see them go downtown because that’s where everyone will meet.”
The Glendale resident thinks Phoenix will be the best central option for hockey fans around the Valley.
As far as the Sun Devils joining in, Calvert is all for it.
“I think it’s awesome,” Calvert said. “It’s all Arizona hockey. It’s growing, it’s a bigger sport now so yeah, I’d think it’d be a good idea.”
Construction for the proposed joint arena is estimated to take three years. It’s possible the Coyotes could continue to play at Gila River in the meantime.
ASU Athletic Director Ray Anderson has already expressed his desire to host the “Frozen Four” NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship in Arizona.