Arizona Coyotes to play Dallas Stars at Kraft Hockeyville preseason game in El Paso
There had been room for one more date on the Arizona Coyotes preseason schedule, until Wednesday's announcement that the Coyotes will play the Dallas Stars on Oct. 3 in El Paso, Texas.
The game is a reward for the west Texas city, the winner of the Kraft Hockeyville grand prize in 2020 after totaling the most online votes for the most spirited hockey community in the U.S.
Other finalists for a civic celebration and six figures in facility upgrades included East Grand Forks, Minnesota, Wichita, Kansas and River Falls, Wisconsin.
Due to the pandemic, the planned preseason game at El Paso County Coliseum Events Center last year did not take place, and was moved to this year.
The building received $150,000 for rink upgrades from Kraft Heinz, plus $10,000 worth of new equipment from the NHL Players Association Goals & Dreams Fund.
The city along the U.S.-Mexico border is the home of the El Paso Rhinos junior hockey organization, with the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez only steps away. It will host an NHL game for the first time.
"We're excited to be a part of it. We're excited to come to Texas and be there with our colleagues at the Dallas Stars, and to go into a community that has an incredible minor league team and an incredible fan base for minor league hockey," Coyotes President and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said. "Another opportunity for us to have an impact, to talk about embracing communities that haven't historically been embraced by the NHL.
"I'm over the moon. It's El Paso. It's Juarez. I'm not sure a lot of people know just how much El Paso and Juarez are integrated, and what an international city it is," Gutierrez added. "So for us to be there and bring NHL players and organizations, I think it really exposes our sport and our league to this international base of fans and fans in waiting."
The Coyotes have a preseason game at home on Oct. 2 against the Anaheim Ducks, then play in El Paso the following evening. That limits the amount of time Gutierrez, the first Latino in his position in NHL history, would prefer to be able do more in the local area in terms of outreach to fans including the city's large Latino community. But there are plans for a youth clinic on the day of the game.
"We have been very clear about what we'd love to do," Gutierrez said, referring to the Coyotes and Stars, "but certainly we're going to have to defer to (the NHL)."
Gutierrez believes that a clinic will take place, and has been working with the Stars to make it happen. He also said the NHL has expressed its desire to play a game in Mexico City one day, it's just a matter of timing and management of the pandemic.
The idea is that the Coyotes would be one of the teams to play in such a game in Mexico if and when it is ever finalized.
Prior to the El Paso game, a week of activities including a community celebration and a chance to take photos with the Stanley Cup and NHL alumni will take place throughout the city.
Tickets will be distributed by the El Paso Local Organizing Committee. More information on how to get on the waiting list for tickets is available on the Rhinos' website and Facebook page.
Ferguson tabbed as assistant GM
The Coyotes on Wednesday announced the signing of John Ferguson to a multi-year contract as assistant general manager, and general manager of the AHL Tucson Roadrunners.
Ferguson, a Montreal native, spent the past seven years with the Boston Bruins, where he was Executive Director of Player Personnel and GM of the AHL Providence Bruins. He has also been general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, director of pro scouting for the San Jose Sharks, assistant general manager and director of hockey operations of the St. Louis Blues and an amateur and professional scout with the Ottawa Senators.
"I've heard just good things about him and I know his track record speaks for itself," Coyotes head coach André Tourigny said Wednesday, regarding Ferguson. "He's been in development. He's been in every role in the NHL, so it's a big asset for us."
The last person to hold both assistant GM and Roadrunners GM titles for the Coyotes was Steve Sullivan, who was let go last season.