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Coyotes 'Thrilled' to Open Arena Doors for ASU

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – The Coyotes and Arizona State University athletic officials on Wednesday announced a partnership that will result in the Sun Devils playing four games at Gila River Arena in 2015-16.

"The natural home for hockey in the Valley, as far as we're concerned, is Gila River Arena," Coyotes Co-Owner, CEO and President Anthony LeBlanc said. "We're just thrilled ASU is going to play games in our facility."

The partnership, announced on the ASU campus in Tempe, took about a year to construct.

Ray Anderson, Anthony LeBlanc and Greg Powers. Photo by Norm Hall.

"We met with (ASU Athletic Director) Ray Anderson last August and we just hit it off immediately," LeBlanc said. "Both of us understood why it made sense for both organizations, and then it was just a matter of let's figure out how to do this. We did and we're thrilled. We run a building that hosts 40 to 50 hockey games a year so that means there are more than 300 nights where the building is available. ASU hockey games just makes a whole lot of sense for both entities. It's really all about just growing the game in Arizona."

In addition to ASU playing four games in Glendale, two more games between other NCAA schools will be played at Gila River Arena as part of the four-team Desert Hockey Classic from Jan. 8-10. The four teams are ASU, Michigan Tech, UConn and Yale.

ASU Hockey Coach Greg Powers likes the partnership and what it means to his program, which recently jumped to Div. I status.

"I think it helps legitimize what we're doing here," Powers said. "To have access to one of the best facilities in the world for our players to play in is a special opportunity."

He added, "We’re excited about this. The facility is incredible. We have an equipment manager who spent 12 years in the NHL and he said even the visiting team facility at Gila River Arena is probably the best in the League and better than most home team’s (in other arenas). So we feel fortunate to be there and can't wait to get going."

Ray Anderson and Anthony LeBlanc. Photo by Norm Hall.

ASU player Drew Newmeyer played at Gila River Arena as a youth hockey participant.

"That was a long time ago but you can't beat it," Newmeyer said. "It's pretty incredible walking out the same hallway that the pros do every night. It will be really exciting."

Gila River Arena is about 20 miles from ASU's main campus in Tempe. LeBlanc said the two sides are working on transportation plans to help get students from campus to the games.

"I remember my days as a college student and certainly it felt like going 20 miles away from campus was like going to Pluto, but I'm confident we'll be able to work together with ASU to structure something that will make it easier for students to come out, enjoy themselves, and then have a safe and reliable mode of transport back to campus."

ASU's first game at Gila River Arena is set for Oct. 3 against rival Arizona. Both the Coyotes and ASU are hoping to get as many as 10,000 fans to attend.

2015-16 Sun Devil Hockey Schedule at Gila River Arena

• Saturday, Oct. 3: ASU vs. Arizona (ACHA), 7 p.m.

Desert Hockey Classic

• Friday, Jan. 8: UConn vs Michigan Tech, 5 p.m.

• Friday, Jan. 8: ASU vs. Yale, 8 p.m.

• Sunday, Jan. 10: Consolation Game, 12 p.m.

• Sunday, Jan. 10: Tournament Final, 3 p.m.

• Sunday, Feb. 28: ASU vs. U.S. National 18-U Team, 3 p.m.

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