GLENDALE - Derek Stepan is two weeks into making Arizona his new home and things are going well.
The new Coyotes center and his family are settling into their residence, and Stepan is making rounds around town meeting new teammates and other Valley athletes and teams.
Not long after arriving in the Phoenix area in mid-August, Stepan began skating informally with other Coyotes at the Ice Den in Scottsdale a few times per week. Then, earlier this week, Stepan and defenseman Alex Goligoski volunteered at Fitz's Supper Club - Celebrities at YOUR Service, aka Arizona Cardinals icon Larry Fitzgerald's annual charity event, during which they helped serve food to guests. Next week, Stepan will throw the ceremonial first pitch at the Arizona Diamondbacks game on "Coyotes Night" at Chase Field on Sept. 8.
"It's all good," Stepan said. "Our family has gotten settled fairly quickly here and we're very excited about it. We love the area and the home we are in, and we're ready to get into that routine. New York was home to us for seven years, but now Arizona is home. We've had the mind-set of making this our home since the trade. It's a new chapter in our life."
The Coyotes acquired Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers in June. Both are expected to play key roles as Arizona builds a fresh identity under new Head Coach Rick Tocchet.
"I talked to him probably three weeks after he got the job and we had a good, 30-minute conversation and got to know each other," Stepan said of Tocchet, who has said he'll look to Stanley Cup Playoff veterans such as Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson as on-ice extensions of the coaching staff.
"Being able to be a leader in the locker room for the Rangers at a young age is something that I really took very seriously and it's something that I'm very proud of," Stepan said. "To be able to wear a letter (A) on my sweater at a young age in New York, and to get respect in the room was special. Coming out of college, I wasn't even sure I was going to make the team, and then to be able to stick around for a full season and wiggle my way into a spot and stay is also something I was really proud of."
Stepan has quickly made friends with the other Coyotes he is skating with at the Ice Den. Some of them - Goligoski and defenseman Kevin Connauton - he knew before the trade.
Watching him interact and joke with all of them creates the illusion that he's been around them all for years. Coyotes fans can look forward to watching Stepan interact with them on-camera this season as he brings his light-hearted "Stepan Behind the Mic" video feature to ArizonaCoyotes.com. It's a Q&A he'll do with teammates on various pop culture and holiday topics.
"I have fun with it," Stepan said. "The guys hate me for it because I try to embarrass them, at least a little bit, but that's OK. I think we need to come up with a new name for it here. I don't know what that'll be, but we can figure something out."
As for his first pitch at the upcoming D-backs game, Stepan said he's up for the challenge. In fact, he's been preparing.
"I've never done it before, but me and Goose (Goligoski) played a little bit of catch recently. I think the knuckle-curve will be the pitch of choice," Stepan said with a smile. "It's important as a professional athlete that you meet other athletes in your state, and do events like the first pitch and Larry's charity event. It's good to give back to the community and do whatever we can to help."
As if joining a new team and moving cross-country weren't exciting enough, Stepan and his wife, Stephanie, are expecting their second child, a daughter, on Sept. 23, right in the heart of training camp. Their son, Max, was born nearly two years ago.
"I'd like to say I'm more relaxed this time around, but it feels the same as the first time," Stepan said. "We're still a little nervous about what's going to happen, but we're also so very excited."
The Coyotes are excited to have Stepan in the mix. He's a proven winner who already has played in 97 post-season games. Having never not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he's eager to help lead the Coyotes there.
"We've got to get off to a good start and play good hockey for 82 games," Stepan said. "Teams that can handle the balance of ups and downs, more times than not will make the playoffs. This is a unique situation and I don't want to use the word challenge because every team has challenges, but it's something that I am new to. We've got a group of younger guys, which is weird for me at age 27 to say, that you kind of have to teach a little bit more. And there's going to be a learning curve throughout the year. But we haven't even started the season yet and I don't want us to get too far ahead of ourselves. I like to look at the season as 10 games at a time, then the next 10 games at a time, then the next 10 games, and then when you get to the playoffs it's round 1, then round 2, then round 3, and then the final one. The Coyotes haven't been to the playoffs since 2012. Ending that streak should be our focus and our goal."
Video: A Preseason Look at Derek Stepan