Wild embrace intimate atmosphere at Coyotes’ temporary home, Mullett Arena
The temporary home for the Arizona Coyotes has a capacity of 4,600 people
TEMPE, Ariz. — In the opening minutes of Sunday’s practice, Minnesota Wild coach Dean Evason gathered his players around a whiteboard plastered to the glass. Just like he starts almost every practice wherever he is.
The only difference? The message from Evason had absolutely nothing to do with hockey.
Instead, he pointed around Mullett Arena, encouraging Wild players to embrace the cozy temporary home of the Arizona Coyotes.
“It’s not a secret that they’ve got a winning record here,” Evason said. “We believe part of it is that teams come in and go, ‘That’s not an NHL rink.’”
There’s some truth to that statement. The seating capacity of 4,600 spectators is by far the smallest in the league. The locker rooms are located in a newly constructed annex around back. Players have to walk through a sea of fans on their way to the ice.
It’s not an NHL rink by normal standards. Not that the Wild are going to use that as an excuse.
“Who cares what it is?” Evason said. "We want the guys to remember when the puck is dropped we play the game right regardless of what the building looks like.”
The Wild made a point of hosting their first practice coming out of the bye week at Mullett Arena. The hope was to get everyone acclimated ahead of Monday’s game between the Wild and Coyotes. That way there wasn’t the shock factor at puck drop.
“We wanted the guys to see it,” Evason said. “It’s a beautiful building. The energy is going to be good. We want our group to embrace everything about it.”
Though the Coyotes had been playing home games at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, their lease expired after the 2021-22 season, prompting the move to Mullett Arena in Tempe, Arizona. The new locale is smack dab in the middle of the Arizona State University campus.
Just skating around the ice sheet brought Matt Boldy and Brandon Duhaime back to their days playing college hockey not so long ago.
“Just being pretty fresh out of college, I’m used to this atmosphere,” Boldy said. “Honestly, I’m excited about it.”
The intimate feel of Mullett Arena brought other players back to their days grinding away in the minors.
“I did five years in the American Hockey League, right?” Jake Middleton said. “This is what I’m used to.”
The nostalgia goes out the window once the puck is dropped. Then it’s on the Wild to lock in on the task at hand.
“The rink is the same size,” Duhaime said. “It doesn’t really matter what’s on the outside.”
It seems the Wild heard the message from Evason loud and clear.
“It’s an NHL game,” Marcus Foligno said. “We’ve got to be mature about it.”
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