Opening Night Remains the Must-See Game on Coyotes' Schedule

Mark BrownContributor IJuly 24, 2013

With every team visiting this season, several sellouts could be the norm at Arena.
With every team visiting this season, several sellouts could be the norm at Arena.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Now that the Coyotes are no longer nomads on the sports landscape, team officials may begin to plan for the future and fill Arena.

On the immediate radar screen is the upcoming 2013-14 NHL season, as the Coyotes have a great opportunity to retain loyal hockey fans and win new ones. That’s because of an attractive schedule and many recognized stars who will skate into the desert.


Must-See Games

If there is a "must-see” game on the slate, there’s a strong argument for opening night.
That would be Thursday, October 3 against the New York Rangers.

As Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is not a new face to Arena, the Rangers will provide an energized and competitive opponent. No question Vigneault, who coached many nights in Arena with Vancouver, wants to get off on the right foot, but the game could be a benchmark for the Coyotes' season ahead.

After four years of a total quagmire and an unsettling discourse on their future, the Coyotes need to come out, play a solid game, set a tone for the season ahead and send a clear message that they belong in the Phoenix market.

Also, put November 30 on your Coyotes calendar.

That’s when the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks make their first of two stops in Phoenix. Because the Phoenix area is a haven for snowbirds, Arena tends to be filled with more Chicago fans than Phoenix supporters. The Hawks also visit on February 7.

There remain several other must-see games, including the only visit by the Detroit Red Wings. Having moved to the Eastern Conference, the Wings will make their lone appearance in Arena on October 19. Like the Hawks loyalists, an appearance by the Wings usually brings more Detroit fans than Coyotes backers.

Other attractive dates include visits by: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins on February 1; Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals on November 9; Dustin Brown and the Kings on October 29 and January 28; Claude Giroux and Vincent Lecavalier and the Flyers on January 4; and the Boston Bruins with Patrice Bergeron on March 22.


New Rivalries

Despite realignment, the Coyotes remain in the Pacific Division.

Yet, the division has a new look with Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver coming over from the old Northwest Division. Plus, Dallas now leaves the division and the new-look Pacific Division includes Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

If there is to be a rivalry with the Coyotes, it could be with the Kings. That’s because of the competitive Western Conference finals two years ago among the teams, and the Kings took the series in five highly charged games.

Because of realignment, natural rivalries tend to appear. Due to geographic proximity, we could see strong antagonism between the Oilers and Flames, the Sharks and Canucks, and Ducks and Kings.

The Coyotes remain geographically isolated from establishing a natural rivalry, but the Kings playoff series generated enough passion and emotion to satisfy any high level of competition.

Here’s the Coyotes' complete 2013-14 slate, including preseason games.