The Glendale years: For the Coyotes, it was the best of times, but mostly, it was the worst of times

(Photo by Madelaine Braggs/Rose Law Group Reporter)

By Go PHNX

Zbyněk Michálek didn’t know a thing about Glendale when he arrived in Arizona via trade from the Minnesota Wild after the season-canceling 2004-05 lockout.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know anything about Arizona; I had never been here in my life,” Michálek said. “When I got here, they put me in this hotel somewhere on Bell Road in Peoria. I got to Glendale Arena and it’s in the middle of nowhere. It was farmland. I see cows and tractors running around and I’m like, ‘Am I in the right place? Is this a hockey rink or is it just some kind of agriculture building?’”

The Coyotes and owner Steve Ellman had great plans to transform that land into a destination replete with a state-of-the-art arena, shops, restaurants and residential areas. The Coyotes had played at America West Arena for six-plus seasons before moving west in December 2003. Although plans for an arena on the site of the old Los Arcos Mall in south Scottsdale had fallen through, the franchise was flush with excitement.

“There was a real sense of optimism about all of it — about the building and the development and the organization and the city and the growth of Phoenix, more specifically in Glendale. It seemed it was going to be the start of something that could be really, really special,” said NHL analyst Mike Johnson, who played his first two-plus seasons with the Coyotes at America West Arena.

“I remember we were given a pamphlet or a brochure of what the development was supposed to look like and it looked spectacular. It was this huge development of hotels and houses and restaurants and infrastructure which would lead to more residences and schools and fire departments. You imagined how great a Whiteout would be in this building, fully stocked with 18,000 people and great viewing angles and seats and amenities and everything else that was not available at America West.”

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