Phil Kessel‘s arrival appears to have energized fans of the Arizona Coyotes.
Season ticket sales at Gila River Arena are up 600 percent compared to the same week last year, including a 550 percent increase in all ticket sales, the Arizona Republic reported Thursday. The Coyotes have also had a 94 percent renewal of season tickets, their highest mark since moving to Glendale, Arizona, in 2003-04.
Kessel, a forward who has scored at least 30 goals in a season six times in the NHL, was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 29.
“It’s certainly satisfying and exciting to see us doing something as a franchise that we feel makes us a much more competitive team and puts us in a better position to win,” Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen told the paper. “The fact that other people in this market are seeing that, fans are seeing that, and they’re jumping on board. It’s good, positive momentum for this organization.”
The Coyotes (39-35-8) finished four points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference last season. They hope Kessel helps them reach the postseason for the first time since 2011-12, when they advanced to the Western Conference Final. In the trade, Arizona received Kessel, a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and minor league defenseman Dane Birks for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
Kessel, who won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017, could be the missing offensive piece for the Arizona, which scored 209 goals last season, tied with the Dallas Stars for the third-fewest in the NHL. He had 82 points (27 goals, 55 assists) in 82 games last season and has scored at least 20 goals in 11 straight. The last player to score at least 30 goals for the Coyotes was Radim Vrbata in 2011-12 (35).
Cohen said the rise in ticket sales is proof that fans in Arizona, some of whom have to battle rush-hour traffic during the 10-mile trip from downtown Phoenix, like the direction the Coyotes are headed.
“Some of the challenges that we’ve experienced in terms of location have been well-documented,” Cohen said. “We could be playing in Yuma (Arizona) or in midtown Manhattan, but if we’re not doing things to put a successful and competitive team on the ice, then we’re going to have limitations on how successful we can be.”
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