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Coyotes Head to Prague to Start Season

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – The Coyotes departed Phoenix today for a weeklong trip to Europe that will conclude with two regular-season games against the Boston Bruins to start the 2010-11 season.

Coyotes Equipment Manager Tony Silva loads gear onto the team plane headed to Prague. Photo by Norm Hall.
“We're playing NHL games that mean something,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “If we were playing a European national team that didn't mean anything in the standings, you'd treat it as an exhibition game. We have to treat these as very serious games. At the end of the season, if you make the playoffs by two points, then you have to get points over there. They all count the same way. We'll take it very serious and even though the situation is unique, we have to make sure we're doing things right.”

Aboard a 757 provided by the NHL, the team left Sky Harbor Airport at 1 p.m. on Sunday headed for Prague, Czech Republic, with a fuel stop scheduled in Halifax, Novia Scotia. The 13-hour flight will cover approximately 6,000 miles. With the nine-hour time change, it will be nearly noon on Monday when the Coyotes arrive in Prague.

Twenty-five players earned spots on the roster for the trip including Al Montoya, who was added on Saturday as an emergency goaltender.

“As a player, you don't get too many opportunities to do something like this, and it's something you want to take advantage of and be excited to do," captain Shane Doan said Sunday, moments before boarding the plane. "Hockey is pretty great to a lot of guys and this chance is special.”

Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata and Petr Prucha will play in their native country. Photo by Getty Images.
The Coyotes, of course, have three Czechs – Petr Prucha, Martin Hanzal, and Radim Vrbata – on the roster. Prucha was born in Chrudim, Hanzal was born in Pisek and Vrbata was born in Mlada Boleslov. All are excited to play meaningful NHL games in their native country.

“For all of us Czech guys it’s exciting,” Vrbata said. “But on the other hand it will be the season opener so you kind of want to focus on hockey and you don’t want to be too excited about playing in Czech (Republic).”

The trip will feature an exhibition game against Dinamo Riga (a KHL team) in Latvia on Wednesday and a gala dinner with the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic at Hrzansky Palace on Thursday.

The trip concludes next weekend with regular-season games against Boston at 02 Arena in Prague on Oct. 9 and Oct. 10. The team will return to Phoenix immediately after the second game. The home opener is Oct. 16 vs. Detroit.

Several players get shuttled to the plane on Sunday at Sky Harbor Airport. Photo by Norm Hall.

► Click here to watch a recap of the team’s departure on Sunday.

► Click here to watch an interview with winger Scottie Upshall.

► Click here to watch an interview with center Kyle Turris.

► Click here to watch an interview with enforcer Paul Bissonnette.

► Click here to listen to an interview with Head Coach Dave Tippett.
► Click here to listen to an interview with captain Shane Doan.
► Click here to listen to an interview with defenseman Adrian Aucoin.
► Click here to listen to an interview with venter Vernon Fiddler.
► Click here to listen to an interview with defenseman Derek Morris.
► Click here to listen to an interview with Manager of Team Services Rick Braunstein.
► Click here to listen to an interview with TV/Radio Host Todd Walsh.

Photo Gallery:
► Click here to see photos of the team at the airport on Sunday.
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