All eyes in the hockey community were on us for a half-hour or so as General Manager Don Maloney explained that Dave Tippett would replace Wayne Gretzky as the team’s head coach. It was fun to be there in person and to watch the various reporters present the breaking news to their readers, viewers and listeners. It was a vibrant atmosphere.
And then, while sitting in the media room where crews had started preparing for the arrival of Miley Cyrus, something hit me. I am going to miss Wayne Gretzky.
Cynics can write all they want about how the Coyotes never made the playoffs under Gretzky. I’m choosing to focus on how the hockey icon always made me feel welcome around the team from my first day on the job. I was “Vesty,” not Dave or David, but “Vesty” - as if I’d played left wing on a line with him for the Edmonton Oilers way back when. I also will remember how he'd sometimes drift back from his first-row seat on the team’s charter flights to the media section. “What did you
think?” he’d occasionally ask me about the game the Coyotes had just won or lost. It was surreal to me, but so real at the same time. I'll never forget it.
Having written all that, I very much am looking forward to covering the team under new head coach Dave Tippett. I just met him today, but I can already tell that he is a man on a mission. Nine days to prepare or not, under his guidance this team will be ready to go when the regular season starts on Oct. 3.
I caught up with captain Shane Doan
on Thursday and asked him to share some of his thoughts about playing for Tippett, a coach who he played against many, many times while Tippett was head coach of the Dallas Stars for six seasons.
“I'm excited Dave is our new coach,” Doan said. "Every time we played them you had to expect that it would likely end up being a one-goal game and that no matter who they had on their team they were going to be hard to play against. They went through a ton of injuries and a ton of call-ups and no matter what, it was always the same game against them."
I then asked Doan to explain the mood in the dressing room on Thursday after the players were told Tippett was their new head coach.
He said: “The guys are dealing with the change. It's difficult for some of the young guys because Wayne has been their only coach in this league. But at the same time, going forward, we're excited.”
It kind of slipped through the cracks on Thursday, but Maloney pared the roster to 24 players by assigning five more players to the team’s AHL affiliate. Twenty-four is one above the NHL roster limit, so stay tuned to see how Maloney and Tippett address the situation. Keep in mind forward Taylor Pyatt
is expected to miss a couple more weeks because of a lower-body injury.
Thanks for reading.