GLENDALE - A packed house is expected at Gila River Arena tonight as the Coyotes host the Chicago Blackhawks.
Among the spectators will be the dads of 18 Coyotes players, who will start the team's inaugural "Fathers Trip" by watching their sons play a much-anticipated game at their home away from home.
The outing will continue on Friday when the fathers will watch the Coyotes practice and then fly with the team to San Jose. Before taking off, they'll all pose for a group photo next to the team plane. Once they arrive in San Jose, the dads will join their sons for an official team dinner.
On Saturday, the fathers will attend the morning skate at the SAP Center and a team strategy meeting there. Later, they will watch the game against the Sharks together, all wearing Coyotes sweaters with their last name on the back. Once the game ends, the fathers will fly back to Arizona with their sons on the team's plane.
In between the morning skate and Saturday's game, the dads will do some sightseeing around San Jose.
There is no official gathering planned for Sunday, but there likely will be a group outing to the Waste Management Phoenix Open followed by a Super Bowl viewing party.
"I'm really excited about it," captain Shane Doan said. "As a dad now, I'd give anything to go on a trip (like this) with my boy. And as a son, for my dad to get to be there, it's going to be pretty special. He loves hockey so it's going to be enjoyable for him to get to kind of see what goes on ... You want to give them a peek to see what your day-to-day life is like and what goes on when you are on the road and how it works."
Goalie Mike Smith agreed.
"Our dads will get to experience what their sons do on a daily basis," Smith said. "It's really nice. This is my 10th year in the League and I've never had one yet so my dad's been really looking forward to it."
Smith was asked if he expects to see the Coyotes play Saturday's game with "a little more jump" what with all of their dads watching in person.
"I'm sure there will be," Smith said with a smile. "There should be. You don't want to get an earful after the game. You definitely want to perform well when your family is in town."
Connor Murphy's dad, Gord Murphy, cannot attend because he's serving as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers. Connor's older brother Tyler will pinch hit for their dad on the trip.
"My dad is obviously busy with coaching so it's nice to have my brother come and fill in," Murphy said. "We just always get along and I'm sure I'll be able to enjoy this trip with him. My brother has always been crazy about hockey, too, so it will be fun to share this with him."