While in Arizona, not only did I attend a Spring Training baseball game, I also attended TWO Arizona coyotes hockey games. I went with my wife to both of them, and we had a great time. Like most southern-based NHL teams, some might underestimate the fandom present at the arena, but the Coyotes do have quite a rabid fan base.
The two games we attended were on March 24 against the Dallas Stars (Coyotes won 3-1) and March 28 against the Calgary Flames (lost 5-2). My wife and I both had a lot of fun at the games, even in the loss to the Flames, and were able to get some really close seats at a good price. What really surprised me at the second game was how many Flames fans were in attendance. I suppose there are more people trying to escape the cold weather of Calgary by vacationing in Arizona than there are from Dallas.
Anyways, I had a few beers, we watched a couple good games, and afterwards, it was time to get some autographs.
There's a spot outside the arena that seems to be the best for post-game signatures. The players park in an underground lot underneath the arena, and you can wait on the curb right where they some up from the underground lot to the above ground part of the parking lot. Players interested in signing just pull over and sign from the comfort of their own automobile, and those who don't can simply just drive on by without being disturbed.
There are some players who always stop, and some who never do, but every fan who got an autograph was very polite and appreciative to the players who stopped. Here's who I was able to get autographs from after both of the games.
Despite being not only the captain, but the cornerstone of the franchise, Doan has a reputation of being one of the absolute nicest guys you will ever meet. He never turns down an autograph request, a photo, or any kind of fan interaction, and apparently stops to sign after EVERY game. I only got him on the second night, however, because as captain, he insists on always being the last to leave, and at midnight the first night, we decided to start heading back to the house. Keep in mind, too, that it was our first day in Arizona, and midnight there was 2 a.m. Minnesota time. He did eventually come out at around 12:15, but we were halfway back to Chandler by that point.
The second night, he wasn't playing as part of the league's concussion protocol. He got knocked in the head pretty good two nights before, and just as a precaution, he had to sit out 48 hours before returning to the ice. Since he wasn't playing, he didn't need to be the last one out, and was actually the first to stop and sign. I had quite a few items for him to sign, and would normally never ask someone to sign so many, but others said he would sign as many as I needed, so I went for it. I waited at the very back of the line, so that no one would have to wait behind me, and he happily signed everything. Not only that, but he also was willing to take a picture with me as well, which was pretty amazing.
Vermette stopped just on the first night, and I was thrilled to get the opportunity to meet him. Last year, Vermette was one of the players with the enviable opportunity to get traded from a small-market team with no playoff hopes, to a Stanley Cup contender, and the dream came true when he hoisted the Stanley Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. His contract expired at the end of the season, and Coyotes fans were excited when he decided to return to Arizona. Although I am a Coyotes fan, I definitely had to get a Stanley Cup photo of his signed, along witht he Coyotes items that I had.
According to the regulars, Connor Murphy, like Doan, is a guy who stops after every game, and is just as nice as can be. He was also one of the most conversational players who stopped, and chatted with the fans about anything, most of it having nothing to do with hockey. Murphy isn't the biggest guy on the ice, but he plays like he is, never shying away from laying out a good hit on the opponent, but he also isn't afraid to take a hit when need be.
Tanguay is one of the newer members of the team, coming over from the Colorado Avalanche in the deadline deal that sent Mikael Boedkker to the Mile High City. I got two photos signed by him, one from his current team, and one from his former, and the Coyotes photo is a lesson on image resolution. When downloading the picture from google images, make sure there are enough pixels to allow a clear image on an 8x10 print. Otherwise, it will look way too pixelated, and not nearly as sharp and clear as you would want it to be.
Rieder is in his second NHL season, and is one of the most beloved members of the team by Coyotes fans. He stopped both nights, but I only got him the first night. The second night, he stopped right after Doan, and ended up leaving before I had the chance to get a few more things signed by him. Still, I was very happy to get him the first time around, and came away with a signed puck and 8x10.
Connauton isn't necessarily one of the biggest names on the team, but he stopped both nights, so he definitely gets some point in my book. I had him sign a puck and a photo the first night, and a card the second night.
Sekac, like Tanguay and Connauton, was a mid-season addition to the team, having been claimed off waivers from Chicago. I brought Cards and photos for each of the players, as well as a few pucks, but only got Sekac to sign a puck. The reason being, while I was trying to get my items together, I asked one of the other graphers who this was, since I don't know all the players by their faces, and was told it was Kevin Connauton. When I presented the photo for him to sign, he politely told me, "That's not me. I'm number 36." I couldn't remember who wore 36 in the moment, so I just ended up getting the puck signed. He was very nice about it, though, and at least I have a signed puck, and a photo to go with it.
The last one in the group is Boyd Gordon. I had him sign a puck and a card, but he is the only one I didn't get a picture with, or at least a photo of him signing. He only stopped the second night, which was after a rough loss to the Flames, and didn't seem to be in a great mood. He wasn't miserable or rude or anything like that, in fact he was nice enough to stop and sign, but he certainly wasn't happy with how that game turned out. Still, I appreciated that he was willing to sign a few autographs and didn't want to bother him any further than that.
That's what I got. For just two games, I'd say I did pretty well. It was a lot of fun, as I always enjoy the opportunity to meet some of the players, and it was even great to have my wife tag along. The games were fun, and if we make it back next season, you can expect for me to get plenty more ink.