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20 Years in Arizona!

Members of the 1996-97 team will take part in a pre-game ceremony on Feb. 18

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

GLENDALE -- The Coyotes will punctuate the team's 20th anniversary celebration on Saturday night when members of the original team take the ice for a pre-game ceremony at Gila River Arena.

Twelve players from the 1996-97 Phoenix Coyotes will be saluted, including current captain Shane Doan and former captain Keith Tkachuk, who will drop the ceremonial first puck. Tkachuk served as team captain from 1996 to 2000.

"It's going to be a fun night," Tkachuk told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, the team's flagship radio station. "I'm looking forward to it."

The current Coyotes will wear their throwback black Kachina sweaters for the game against the San Jose Sharks. The scene will be somewhat reminiscent of the team's first home game in Arizona, played Oct. 10, 1996 vs. San Jose at what was then called America West Arena in downtown Phoenix. The Coyotes won that game 4-1.

Other former Coyotes scheduled to participate include Teppo Numminen, Dallas Drake, Mike Gartner, Cliff Ronning, Craig Janney, Kris King, Oleg Tverdovsky, Jim McKenzie and Mike Stapleton. 

Jeremy Roenick is unable to attend the event due to prior commitments to NBC Sports. Nikolai Khabibulin also will miss the event because of a recent death in his family. 

"It feels like it was yesterday," Tkachuk said of the team's move from Winnipeg to Phoenix in the summer of 1996. "We enjoyed it. We had a great fan base. Everything worked out great there (in Phoenix). For a team that moved late in the year, it was an incredible experience and a great place to play. It was a lot of fun playing in downtown Phoenix. It will be a lot of fun reminiscing. It's kind of scary how fast it's gone by."

Before the game begins, the Coyotes will reveal the team's "All-Time Starting 6" as voted by the fans. The elite group will feature three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie.

The 1996-97 Phoenix Coyotes posted a 38-37-7 record (with the 7 representing 7 ties, not overtime losses). Tkachuk led the team with 52 goals and 86 points. Roenick ranked second with 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists), and Gartner was third with 63 points (32 goals, 31 assists). Tverdovsky dished out a team-high 45 assists. Khabibulin played 72 of 82 games and posted a 30-33-6 record, including seven shutouts. Shane Doan chipped in four goals and eight assists as a 21-year-old in 63 games. 

Video: Top Moment #9: Tkachuk's 50th Goal

The original Coyotes finished third in the Central Division and qualified for the 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs, in which they played the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the first round. The Ducks won the series 4-3.

NOTE: The first 10,000 fans entering Gila River Arena on Saturday will receive a Keith Tkachuk bobble head doll courtesy of COX. 


Goaltender: Nikolai Khabibulin
Defensemen: Brad McCrimmon, Jim Johnson
Center: Keith Tkachuk
Left Wing: Jim McKenzie
Right Wing: Shane Doan
vs. San Jose, Oct. 10, 1996
Kris King (at 19:34 of 1st period, with assists by Brad McCrimmon and Darrin Shannon) 




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