Ducks Dogs and Dirt – An Intimate Hockey Experience in the Desert

I knew that I wanted to go to this game directly after the bad blood game where Trevor Zegras infuriated Troy Stecher with the mystery chirp. This would be the next time these two teams would face each other, and even though it would take some coordination, I had to go. I wrote an article about it…

I’ll start this little tale off by giving credit where credit is due. My eldest brother Mike got me the tickets. Evidently, he has a connection with one of the Phoenix Coyotes coaches and turned it into seats for the Coyotes and the Anaheim Ducks for the April 8th game at the expensive Mullett Arena. Not just seats for me but for Chris from LAP as well. So, thanks, bro. 

I really wanted to see Round 2, but that got foiled by the Stetcher trade to Calgary. However, the plans were already long in motion. The trip seemed like fun anyway, as I didn’t know the particulars of the Coyotes stadium and/or potentially moving situation. This could be the only season that the Coyotes played on the ASU campus. I figured if I wanted to see an NHL game in this environment, at least once, I had better move on it. 

I have been to various arenas all over the country, and I haven’t really seen anything quite like this. As soon as we entered, we were greeted by Howler, the Coyotes mascot, and about 30 employees literally applauding our arrival. As we walked through their receiving line, they thanked us for coming and engaged people individually with kind words and a smile. Directly ahead of where we came in was, very conveniently, our section 110. Six steps up the ramp, and there we stood about 12 feet from the ice. We were a few more rows up, so we found our seats and then turned around to get our bearings.

Mullett Arena is tiny. I have played in rec league arenas that are bigger. It is extremely well set up, and there is not a bad seat in the building. It was astonishing that we would shortly be watching NHL talent in this diminutive space, but we were. We had some time before warmups started, so we grabbed a beer ($12 tall boys) and took a lap. The “team store” was a tiny little kiosk, and the staff and the officers were extremely friendly…it was kind of surreal. I walked right up within about six feet of John Ahlers and Brian Hayward and gave them a little wave. I know them from a previous position, and John gave me a big smile and flashed me a peace sign recognizing that I was there, far from home. I couldn’t imagine broadcasting a game from this open area, as an unruly fan could certainly be heard on the mic during the broadcast if they wanted to be. Looks like everyone is just making the best of it.  

The absolute highlight of the seating situation was the standing-room-only section. It is all across the rear causeway directly above the home team’s goal. It has a convenient shelf for your beer or food and even has a foot-rest rail all the way across for comfort. If you haven’t watched a hockey game from directly behind a net, I would argue that it’s the best view in any arena. A savvy hockey fan can watch plays develop as the game comes directly at you, giving a unique perspective of the game’s ebbs and flows. From this angle, you can see how the offense and the defense is structured and access how both teams are coached. You can really feel what they are trying to do, and in the Mullett, you’re right on top of it. 

As I was checking this view out, I got the chance to meet my contemporaries; Chris from LAP (@latearrivalspod) and Erin from the She Talks Hockey Podcast (@shetalkshckypod). We had our hellos and a chat, grabbed a few pics for posterity, and then it was almost game time. Chris and Erin wisely took up a post on the rail for most of the game’s duration. I’m sure they had an excellent view of the action throughout. 

I hustled back to my blue line seat on the Ducks shoot twice side and watched the show. This was really something. It’s not the first time I have had great seats to a game, I’ve sat on the glass many times and had season seats behind the net, but EVERYONE had a great seat. It really put you in the game. 

The game itself was a win/lose situation for the Ducks, with the Bedard watch draft position looming. However, it was almost the best of all outcomes, with the game going to overtime and the Ducks losing to the Coyotes 5-4 in that OT. The game included a couple of fights, some rough play, and some real skill. Clayton Keller, the right winger for the Coyotes, is an absolutely electric player. He is a star (1G and 1A in the contest) and was mesmerizing throughout the game. It was a lot of fun to watch. 

One thing that really sticks out to me is the sound. I don’t know if any of you have played, but you can hear everything at ice level in a small arena. This felt like what it sounds like when you are playing. You can easily hear every chirp, the crack as the puck hitting the stick on a sharp passing play, the slight scrape of the ice when a player takes a slap shot, the puck ringing off the goalpost like a mission bell, and especially the hits. The hits are thunderous when you aren’t in a cavernous arena like Honda Center or Staples. The crowd is a major factor, as the players can hear you individually and feel the energy of the crowd noise during the game. 

When the first-period break came, I discovered a quaint characteristic of the Mullett. The visiting players have to walk through the lower fan area to get from the locker room to the bench area. Max Jones, my best friend, and Max Comtois most acknowledged the fans there. I snapped a few iPhone pics for you as the Ducks were only a few feet from me. 

I don’t know if the Coyotes will play in the Mullett next year. During various breaks in the action,, the team certainly made sure that the overhead video board reminded the fans to vote for the new stadium proposal. I don’t know if the Coyotes will be in Yuma next year. The rumblings of a move to Houston were lingering in passing conversations on the concourse. All I know is that if you get the opportunity to see a game at the Mullett? Take it. The staff was a joy, you know they are committed and work VERY hard to engage the fans. A few of my friends and I have always joked that the Honda Center is the “friendliest visiting arena in the NHL.” No one is fighting at the Pond, and we endure visiting teams’ chants most nights. I have to adjust that opinion now, as the stellar Mullett/ASU staff treated visiting fans like home team fans. It was worth the trip and the expense to have the most friendly, intimate NHL hockey game experience that the average fan can have. I highly recommend a visit to that little rink in the desert. 

Episode 46: The Crone-Zone Late Arrivals: An Anaheim Ducks Podcast

On this impromptu episode of LAP, the guys talk about Pat Verbeek finding his guy in Greg Cronin. They cover some of the ideology and culture Cronin brings to the table with his 36 years of experience as a coach. They also continue to give Pat Verbeek the praise he deserves and finish things with listener questions!Follow Late Arrivals Twitter: @latearrivalspodInstagram: @latearrivalspodFollow the hostsChris: @CJKChelConnor: @91_PlutyJake: @_JRobles71Louis: @Louiex37 Intro/ Outro done by Will Rice/ @pastorwillrice
  1. Episode 46: The Crone-Zone
  2. Episode 45: Out On Main
  3. Episode 44: Oh Rats!
  4. Episode 43: Lets Get Silly
  5. Episode 42: LAP Knows Ball(s)

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