A brand-new ice surface was installed at Gila River Arena Wednesday morning, a sure sign the 2020-21 season is fast approaching.
All familiar rink markings -- face-off circles, neutral-zone lines and goal creases -- were meticulously measured and painted.
However, the main attraction of Wednesday's installation took center stage at center ice. Two iconic Coyotes logos were incorporated to celebrate a milestone year for the organization.
A mesh overlay of the purple crescent moon logo was fixed and frozen inside the center ice face-off circle. It was the center ice logo at America West Arena when the Coyotes relocated to the Valley in 1996. A ribbon of Kachina logos brand the red line and accent the retro moon.
"This is just the beginning of our 25th Anniversary celebration," President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said.
"Part of our (25th Anniversary) celebration is putting the crescent moon (logo) at center ice," he said. "This was the center ice logo when the team first moved to the Valley. It is right at the core of the Kachina logo, which is one of the most beloved sports logos in Arizona sports history."
The Coyotes will skate on the new ice when training camp opens Sunday, January 3. The first live game on the new surface will be played Thursday, January 14, the Coyotes' regular-season opener. The 56-game 2020-21 schedule was released Wednesday afternoon.
"We're excited," Gutierrez said. "This is what we live for. To bring hockey back. To see players on the ice. To have the puck drop. It's going to be a different season, 56 games in 115 days. It's a sprint, not a marathon. We are really, really excited to have hockey back. I know our fans are incredibly excited, and I know this entire community is thrilled."
Owner, Chairman and Governor Alex Meruelo is making significant investments to ensure the ice at Gila River Arena is among the best in the NHL, Gutierrez said. The Coyotes have purchased two brand-new Zambonis and have upgraded building insulation.
"That is part of our investment," Gutierrez said. "We are here. We want to win. We want to win on the ice and off the ice. So, the investments we're making are to ensure that this is some of the best ice in the NHL. Fans can rest assured that we are making the investments to ensure that this team wins."
The Coyotes have invited members of the league office, including NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig, to oversee the final stages of the ice installation.
How does this affect Gutierrez's excitement level for the coming season? I am "at least a 15" on a scale of one-to-ten, he said.
"I'm excited that this is happening. I'm excited that (the season) is starting in a couple of weeks. We are working with all of the authorities to monitor our ability to host fans, even if it is in a limited capacity. We want to ensure that our celebration of 25 years, as well as the excitement of Alex Meruelo, his family, and our ownership group, is something that we are able to share with others."
Lead Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes // Second Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes // Footer Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes