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The Desert Dog Blog: Team Bonding Trip Going Well

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
PRESCOTT VALLEY – With a week off between the preseason finale and regular-season opener, the Coyotes are in the midst of a three-day trip here to fine-tune, to bond and to focus on the start of the 2011-12 season as a group.

On Monday, the team practiced for an hour at Tim’s Toyota Center, the home of the Central Hockey League’s Arizona Sundogs. After the practice, the Coyotes greeted the fans who came to watch practice and signed some autographs.

Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. Photo courtesy of Arizona Sundogs.
“We had a good practice today,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “The players will have a little meal together tonight and we’ll have a better practice tomorrow. We’ve got some things we really want to work on tomorrow, so we’ll come in here and work and head back to Phoenix.”

I asked Tippett what he thought of the arena, which holds 5,200 for a Sundogs game.

“This is a beautiful building,” he said. “From my time coaching in the minors you see a lot of buildings that are smaller venues, but you always like to see the smaller venues that have a big venue feel only just in smaller scale. This is great with the seats and the suites around. It’s a very, very nice arena.”

The Coyotes practiced for an hour on Monday in Prescott Valley. Photo courtesy of Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier.
Tippett said returning to Prescott Valley for future training camps is a no-brainer, if the preseason schedule allows for such a journey.

The trip to Prescott Valley is the brainchild of General Manager Don Maloney and Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving. With several new players on the roster, Maloney and Treliving thought a team-bonding trip would be a good idea before the season starts at San Jose on Saturday night.

The Coyotes kicked off the three-day venture with a golf outing on Sunday at the Sunridge Golf Course. The players were divided into groups of four (or five) and a good time was had by all under ideal weather conditions.

Ray Whitney and Derek Morris displayed keen golf skills, but Paul Bissonnette was dressed most like a PGAer.

Paul Bissonnette putts with his partners watching. Photo by Dave Vest.
Bissonnette said he and his playing partners – Raffi Torres, Kyle Chipchura, Taylor Pyatt and Nathan Oystrick – had a blast on the links.

“I think the winning group was 18-under but I think our group had the most fun,” Bissonnette said. “We had a pretty greasy fivesome; a lot of fourth-liners and a lot of meat and potatoes guys. We had some fun.”

Monday’s practice was a nice experience for defenseman David Schlemko, who played for the Sundogs in 2007-08 when they won the CHL championship.

Schlemko led the Coyotes at center ice as they stretched before Monday’s practice, and that honor was not lost on the fans who attended.

“Way to go Schlemmy!” one of them yelled, prompting the other fans to applaud and Schlemko’s teammates to bang their sticks on the ice in approval.

David Schlemko (center) and teammates skate on Monday in Prescott Valley. Photo courtesy of Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier.
“It’s cool to be back here and see this town again,” said Schlemko, who had 10 goals and 29 assists in 58 games for the Sundogs in ’07-08. “It’s a little bit surreal coming back in this dressing room. The last time I was in here we had just won a championship so it brings back some good memories. That was my first year pro and we got treated very well here. It’s a first class organization and we won a championship. You don’t forget that.”

Bissonnette added: “It was cool to see Schlemko get a nice ovation when he led the team stretch. I’m sure it brought back some good memories of him lighting the lamp here when he was just a young pup.”

The Coyotes will practice at Tim’s Toyota Center again on Tuesday at 10 a.m. and then take the 90-minute ride back to the Valley.

“This trip has been great so far,” captain Shane Doan said. “It’s fun to be able to do something as a group outside of the rink. Playing golf together and hanging out together like this will help us develop camaraderie. We have a great group of guys this year and when you like each other it seems you play harder for each other.”
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