The Phoenix Coyotes have a new vision, a new building, a new coaching staff on the way (perhaps) and a roster face-lift that would put TV's “Extreme Makeover'' to shame.
The management team knows Coyotes fans have comments and concerns, questions and queries, grouses and gripes in the wake of the team's worst season since moving to Arizona. And the entire group, from owners Steve Ellman and Wayne Gretzky on down, will make themselves available to more than 1,000 full and partial season tickets holders tonight at the Coyotes’ first-ever “town hall'' meeting at Glendale Arena.
Coyotes president Doug Moss said all topics will be on the table — from the direction of the team on the ice to its performance off it — and after short statements from Ellman, Gretzky, general manager Mike Barnett, arena manager Ron Woodbridge and ticket chief Augie Manfredo, the rest of the evening will be a wide-open question-and-answer session.
“With all the things that went on last year with the team and the building, there was never a good way to have something like this,'' Moss said. “Even though we've been done almost a month, we sensed there was a need to give people a shot at asking questions — which we feel is something the people who support us year in and year out and make a commitment surely have a right to do.''
The fans certainly are ready. Moss said he has received more than 1,100 RSVP from fans who will come to the arena tonight to listen, and have their say. Such meetings in the past have gotten a little ugly — in 2000, a Chicago Blackhawks town hall disintegrated into a shouting match between then-GM Mike Smith and disgusted patrons upset at the organization.
“That's the chance you take when you venture into the unknown, and we're interested to see what happens,'' Moss said. “We have no idea what we're going to hear, but we're eager to listen.''
LOOSE PUCKS: The Coyotes finalized a three-year, sole affiliation agreement with the American Hockey League's Utah Grizzlies on Wednesday and will make the formal announcement this afternoon in Salt Lake City. Gretzky and executive vice president Cliff Fletcher will head up the Phoenix contingent before heading back to Arizona for the town hall.
The agreement allows Utah owner David Elmore to sign up to four veteran players on his own, with the Coyotes providing the rest of the roster. . . .
The Coyotes have not asked for permission to speak with Jacques Martin, but Gretzky has had several conversations with the former Ottawa Senators coach on what Barnett termed “Team Canada matters.'' Barnett said the team will focus on filling its coaching staff in earnest next week.