The NHL will build on the overwhelming success of the Winter Classic with six outdoor games this season from Jan. 1 onward, including a game between the Ducks and Kings at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25.
The league’s next goal? Possibly bringing an outdoor game to the Valley of the Sun, where temperatures in January can hit the 70s or even the 80s.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto on Monday that the Valley is prepared to host an outdoor game, and a source confirmed that the Coyotes ownership group has approached the league about doing just that. Members of the IceArizona ownership group will attend the game in LA to experience an outdoor game in a southern climate.
The Coyotes declined comment on any specifics and Daly did not immediately return an email requesting further information, but if the game comes to fruition — and much must still be sorted out before that happens — it likely would be held at Chase Field during Super Bowl week in 2015, when the NFL’s marquee event is being hosted at University of Phoenix Stadium on Feb. 1.
The stadium’s retractable roof would help mitigate the potential for weather issues, but the challenge would be to sell 50,000-plus seats for the game, likely requiring a marquee opponent such as the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It would bring great exposure to your organization,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “If you can do it in a non-traditional hockey market, it would be a lot of fun, and I think the novelty would be part of the sell.”
Tippett said captain Shane Doan is still dealing with an illness and will not make the team’s trip to Denver for a Tuesday meeting with the Avalanche.
Also missing the trip are forward Lauri Korpikski (day-to-day, upper body) and defenseman Derek Morris, who is still away from the team dealing with a personal issue. Tippett said Morris could rejoin the team later in the week but likely wouldn’t be available to play before Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes at Jobing.com Arena.
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek completed his first full practice with the team Monday and will make the trip. His status will likely be determined after the team’s morning skate on Tuesday or at game time.
The Coyotes haven’t lost a lot of man-games to injuries compared to other teams, but the number isn’t the issue.
“They’ve been key ones, and that’s not good,” Tippett said. “When you lose Doan, that’s a big hole to fill.”
The Coyotes earned just three of a possible six points on their now-completed western Canadian road trip, but Tippett saw progress.
“In some of things we’re trying to do — give up less chances and less shots — we were better in all those areas, but we’ve still got to find ways to win, even with guys out of the lineup,” he said. “We still gave up an average of three goals a game, too, which still has to come down a little bit for us to have success.”
The Coyotes rank 25th in the NHL in goals allowed per game at 3.14.