NFL superstar defensive end J.J. Watt announced his decision to sign a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals Monday morning while the Coyotes were prepping for an 11:30 a.m. practice.
By the time Watt's announcement hit Twitter at 10:46 a.m., players' phones were tucked away as they geared up for a high-tempo skate that lasted roughly one hour.
Head coach Rick Tocchet and the team caught wind of the breaking news at around 12:30 pm., once they were off the ice.
Tocchet's initial reaction sparked a joke. He humored a possible lineup change for Wednesday's game against the Kings.
"Well actually, I just put a call in to (J.J.)," Tocchet said. "He's going to play with Conor Garland next game, we're going to put him on the wing. We'll see if anybody wants to touch Gars."
Christian Fischer didn't find out about the news until he was fielding questions from local media.
"I didn't know that," Fischer said with a smirk that signified surprise.
"I love that," he continued. "I know that people have been trying to encrypt his tweets, they were saying that he was giving out hints and stuff about where he's going to sign. I think that's awesome."
Watt let the world know once and for all, posting a workout photo wearing a Cardinals t-shirt.
Watt, 31, was arguably the NFL's most sought-after free agent. Fischer termed Watt a "superstar," lauding the five-time Pro Bowler's intelligence and dedication, adding, "he's the status quo of hard work."
Fischer says there will be added incentive to make a trip to State Farm Stadium next season.
"You know, going to watch a Cardinals game (now), I know that J.J. Watt is going to bring it every single night," Fischer said. "He's going to die out there for the game. That's what players love, especially professional athletes, especially myself. I love that type of stuff."
Jakob Chychrun, well versed when it comes to following Valley teams, respects the art of all athletes and is excited to see the Cardinals add a world-renowned player to their roster.
"It's cool," Chychrun said. "It's really cool. I think that's going to be exciting to watch him here. (The Cardinals) have a heck of a team now, and that's obviously a big piece they just added. So, it's going to be fun to watch them. I've been cheering for them a lot the last few years and it's going to be nice to see what they can do next year. I know they're an exciting team, a very offensive team, and it's nice that they're stacking up on (defense) too."
Chychrun is all for having another prominent athlete call the Valley home.
"There are a lot of high-end athletes in Arizona," Chychrun said. "We like watching (the Suns) too, they're obviously doing really well this year. It's just fun to see these Arizona teams doing well. It's cool to have a superstar like that come here."
The Cardinals "made a great move," Tocchet said.
"The guy is a perfectionist," Tocchet continued. "You see him in the gym, his work ethic, the injuries he's come back from. He's going to bring that leadership in the Cardinals locker room. It's like Tom Brady -- obviously (J.J.) plays defense -- but Tom Brady, the way (players like that) can come in and whether it's to help the culture or set the culture, he's a culture guy, the way he prepares. Those guys are hard to find. He's going to add so much culture in that room, and obviously his talents on the field."
Tocchet believes there is plenty of value in learning from athletes and coaches in other sports. While speaking on Watt Monday, Tocchet was reminded of an interaction he had with Hall-of-Fame NBA Player Julius "Dr. J" Erving.
"Back in the day, I remember being at a function with "Dr. J," Julius Erving," Tocchet said. "I'm talking years ago. Just his approach, things like that you talk about. I remember Tie Domi was buddies with Ray Lewis, one of my favorites, and I got to Facetime (Lewis) and pick his brain on stuff. That's the stuff I love. Anytime I get a chance to pick those guys' brains, I'm going to do it."
Tocchet recalls, more recently, the hospitality he was shown during his time as an assistant coach with the Penguins by Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
"When I was in Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin used to let us go into training camp anytime we wanted," Tocchet said. "(To) watch their training camp and sit in their meetings, watching (how they did things). I remember even earlier on, watching Jerome Bettis or (Ben) Roethlisberger, the way they trained, the way they approached practice."
Tocchet admits he has the luxury of many high-profile hockey friends he can lean on for guidance, such as Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, but believes that, regardless of the sport, there is always benefit in confiding in a superstar athlete.
"Those guys, I pick their brains all the time," Tocchet said. "They help. Anytime you can find a star athlete, or have a friend who's a star athlete, you pick their brain and you ask them, 'Hey, what would you do in this spot?' Or, 'What would you do as a player in these spots?' I think that's invaluable.
"And in other sports, (it's) the same thing."
Lead Photo Credit: [Left - Chychrun] Kaci Demarest - Arizona Coyotes [Middle - Watt] J.J. Watt via Twitter - @JJWatt [Right - Fischer] Kevin Anggara - Arizona Coyotes // Second Photo Credit: Norm Hall - NHLI via Getty Images // Third Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Norm Hall - NHLI via Getty Images