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Arizona Coyotes fans share their memories at last game in Mullet Arena

The Arizona Coyotes played their last game in Arizona on Wednesday night. The NHL Board of Governors on Thursday approved the sale to the team to the owners of the Utah Jazz.

The Coyotes beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 in front of a raucous, and at times, nostalgic home crowd.

The Show was at Mullet Arena in Tempe to talk to fans and to get a sense for what the atmosphere was like.

Conversation highlights

MARK BRODIE: So what was the overall atmosphere like there?

NICK SANCHEZ: So the atmosphere was, I would say a mixed bag of, of a lot of emotions. It was ... outside the arena. About an hour or so before puck drop, there was, you know, a lot of the generic, kind of tailgating kind of activities. You know, people shooting corn hole. A lot of like games and kind of, you know, fun sports stuff you'd see in, in, in the parking lot in any arena. And then once you go inside, it was pretty, it wasn't mournful right off the jump. It was very — but there was a sense of uneasiness. A sense of, you know, everybody's on the concourse, especially early before the game, you know, but going about it in a way, it felt like at least that everybody knew what was gonna go on three hours from now.

BRODIE: So we got to talk about the ["Salt Lake sucks"] chant. ... Related to the city that the Coyotes are reportedly going to move to. This came up not once but a few times during the course of the game.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. Yeah, a few times by my count at least three times, louder and louder each time. It felt like there was some a attempt to drown out maybe the third, the third time. Which was in, relatively speaking, in good faith, probably on ... the cheer squad part. But yes, that "Salt Lake sucks" chant that we heard. I mean, that's, that's one of those things that you ... kind of understand from, from a certain perspective where fans are coming from there. There's a lot of, again, pent up energy in that building. So it was, it was a, I guess their way, or the building's way, the fans way of, of of getting it out.

BRODIE: So after the game, just watching it on TV, there was kind of a feeling like almost nobody wanted to leave the building. People didn't want to leave the arena. The Coyotes and the staff and the coaches gathered on the ice for a group photo. They were, you know, throwing hats and, you know, handing sticks into the crowd like being in the building. Did you get a sense that fans players, the team just generally didn't want this to end?

SANCHEZ: Of course, yes. The final buzzer sounds or, or in this case, the final final horn sounds. And there's a pretty big standing ovation for, for the team, obviously. Of course, of the win, but also because of the circumstances surrounding this, that this could be very well, could be, could have been the last game of, for the Coyotes in Arizona or at least this iteration.
And yeah, a lot of fans stuck around. The players on the ice immediately went over to their longtime equipment manager and kind of acknowledged him, and then acknowledged the fans. A lot of stick raising, a lot of stick tapping, that kind of stuff. Traditional hockey, like thank you fans kind of stuff.

And then players went into the locker room for a little bit, the dressing room for a little bit. Some fans started to file out, but a good amount of fans fans stayed. And what happened afterwards was Coyotes players took the jerseys off their backs, signed them and gave them to fans in the arena. I believe there was a few select fans down the ice.

But then after that, even all kinds of memorabilia started coming out. Which was what felt like kind of a cathartic at — least for at least four fans — positive ending to this. And it did feel like nobody kind of wanted to leave. Even the players after throwing hats into the stands, maybe they had a stack of hats and, and threw them into the stands and were kind of looking around: "OK, what else can I sign? What else can I, what, what else can I give away?"

BRODIE: So you mentioned this iteration there is, of course, the possibility that the Coyotes could come back or some version of the Coyotes could come back to the Phoenix area as an expansion team. What did fans tell you about whether they thought that was a good idea or not?

SANCHEZ: A lot of fans, almost unanimously, at least from those who I talked to were open to supporting a new fresh expansion version of the Coyotes. Now, some of those yeses, some of them were emphatic. Yes, 100%. Some of them were conditional, particularly when it came to who would be the prospective owner of said new iteration of the Coyotes. There was a lot of,, sentiment regarding the current owner, Alex Meruelo, who was rumored to be selling the team who also notably was not in the arena for last night's game. There's a lot of sentiment that if Meruelo is the owner of the new iteration of the Coyotes, should that happen? That maybe some fans would be a little more skeptical.

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Nick Sanchez is a senior producer for KJZZ's The Show. He joined the station as an intern during the spring of 2022, where he developed a passion for audio storytelling in the Valley.