Taylor Hall finally arrived in Arizona early Wednesday morning, really early, trudging through another long night as the team's return flight from San Jose landed in Phoenix just before 2:00 in the morning, where billboards were already welcoming his arrival to the organization.
"I was pretty groggy this morning," he said when asked if he saw his face proudly displayed around the Valley on his drive to the rink. "That's awesome, that's one of the great things about what's going on here is that there seems to be a buzz building."
Difficult travel, overwhelming hours, and a lack of sleep haven't deterred his stance on becoming a Coyote.
"It's everything that I could've wanted with a midseason trade, to be honest."
There are numerous advantages that heavily outweigh the logistical challenges he's endured during his transition. Joining a first place team is a good example.
"Not every day can you jump that many spots in the standings," he reiterated on Wednesday afternoon, greeting local media for the first time during his introductory press conference at Gila River Arena.
"I'm joining a group that's playing well, and I don't want to speak for anyone else, but hopefully there's another level that we can get to while holding the top spot that we have in the standings."
Prior to his press conference, Hall got acclimated with his new home arena, dressing room and locker stall (where he'll sit between former teammate and friend Michael Grabner and goaltender Darcy Kuemper ), and hopped onto the ice for his first full team practice.
"There's a great opportunity in front of us; and for me, I'll find my place in the lineup and I'll find my place in the room, but in the short term it's just about winning games and keeping our spot there."
Practice proponent Head Coach Rick Tocchet also had his first chance to work with Hall in extended fashion on Wednesday, including power-play walk throughs. Tocchet, from his playing days, knows what it's like to be traded.
"When a guy is traded, the best advice I give to players is to just be yourself, just play," he said. "If you're a shooter, shoot it, we'll go from there. If you're a rush guy, take the puck and go. I'm a big believer in that."
The Coyotes have been a dangerous team on the rush this season, attacking north with speed, and Tocchet, who identified Hall as "an elite rush player," can take that aspect of the team's game to the next level.
"I don't want him to have to adjust to everybody, he just has to be himself and that's the easiest thing," he added. "We're not all of a sudden going to change our system, we're just going to play, and when you acquire a guy like Taylor, we adjust to him."
As if Arizona is becoming a hotbed for players to live and perform, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka feels as though the team's recent additions of nationally-recognizable names may be helping push that trend, direction.
"We certainly feel like we're on the right track, not only for the NHL players but for growing the sport in the state of Arizona," Chayka said. "That's a huge responsibility of ours in a non-traditional market, and I think we take a lot of pride in that. Bringing over players like Taylor and Phil that have great resumes, that are great players and fun to watch, I think that's a big part of the process."
Those aforementioned billboards showcasing Hall's face will continue to be prominently displayed throughout the greater Phoenix area through the weekend.
"We talk about the on-ice and structure and all that, but at the end of the day we're entertainment for people," Hall said, taken aback by the enthusiasm. "Guys like myself and all of these other young players and the team that we have here, hopefully we can keep building that and get some excitement into the area here."
But of course, the focus remains on the ice.
"It's just about playing hockey and that's what I'm here to do, I'm here to contribute to a winning team."
And he'll get his shot at doing so in front of that newly inspired and stimulated home fan base tomorrow night at Gila River Arena.
First things first, as Tocchet called out in Hall's direction as everyone cleared out of the press conference.
"Now go get some sleep."
Lead Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images // Practice Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Getty Images