The red carpet lies on top of the ice. Fans are in their seats. A couple that are longtime season-ticket holders begin to make their way to center ice for the ceremonial puck drop.
The announcer shares that their son is currently serving in Afghanistan as they arrive at center ice. The team captains and the couple get ready to drop the puck.
However, they are missing one important element: the ceremonial puck. The Coyotes’ announcer says, “We have a special guest delivering tonight’s game puck.” The crowd begins to cheer.
Eitan and Ronit Urman welcomed home their son Sgt. Dan Urman from Afghanistan when he delivered the puck at the Arizona Coyotes’ “Pack Pride Night.”
Rachel Korchin, ASU alumna and manager of community relations for the Arizona Coyotes, helped organize the surprise and says she enjoyed being a part of it.
“We’ve never done anything like that with us and everyone just had such an amazing time,” Korchin says. “Having seen this out basically all season long and see it come to life—knowing that we were a part of that was definitely one of my favorite parts.”
Throughout the rest of the night, Arizona Coyotes thanked fans with surprises, activities and giveaways at the Gila River Arena.
“‘Pack Pride Night’ is always about giving back to the fans,” Korchin says. “We don’t have a team without the fans and so we want them to know that we appreciate them.”
Journalism sophomore Madalyn Heimann has been to three “Pack Pride Nights” and says she loves being a Coyotes’ fan.
“It’s an honor to be a Coyotes’ fan and I feel like ‘Pack Pride Night’ is about honoring, not only myself, but other fans and just being in the arena for the final time,” Heimann says.
“I thought it was super cool the amount of fans that showed up even though we weren’t a playoff team," she adds.
The Coyotes’ averaged about 13,000 fans per home game this season; however, 15,733 fans attended their final regular season home game.
Prior to the game, the Coyotes had a game of street hockey set up for fans to participate in, as well as a live band outside the Gila River Arena. Children also greeted the fans by tapping hockey sticks on the concrete as they entered the arena.
Chris Steele has been a season ticket-holder for five years and says he hasn’t missed a game in the past three seasons.
“They’ve always done a real good job of recognizing the fans that show up to the games and make it a good time for the kids,” Steele says.
Additionally, the Coyotes’ National Anthem singer Patrick Lauder let the fans sing the National Anthem, a tradition that started a few years ago when Lauder’s microphone malfunctioned on a fan appreciation night.
Korchin says the Coyotes wanted to maximize the giveaways for the fans this year.
“We have various in-game giveaways,” she says. “We’ve got giveaways on the plaza. We’re really trying to maximize the number of giveaways—the number of things that people are getting. Everyone is leaving with a poster of the team.”
Some of the other giveaways included team-signed hockey sticks, reusable grocery bags and team posters.
Steele, who has been to five of the final regular season home games, says, “On ‘Pack Pride Night’ they give away a lot of stuff, which is kind of nice for the fans. It’s always nice when you get picked out once to go down on the ice and get a stick from one of the players.”
For the first time, the Coyotes allowed the fans to control their Twitter account. Korchin says the Coyotes did not tweet anything themselves, but only retweeted what the fans had to say.
“The social media aspect is new for us this year by letting the fans tell our story,” Korchin says. “We’re really just trying to make sure that everyone feels like they’re a part of the game.”
The Coyotes asked fans through their social media accounts to submit their favorite songs and those requests would be compiled into the “Pack Pride Night” music playlist. Korchin says letting the fans pick the music is new for them as well.
Heimann says the focus on this night has changed over the years. She says it used to be about remembering the team in the event they don’t come back, but now it’s about looking to the future.
“Because the team is now established in Arizona there’s more focus on, 'let’s celebrate this year and look forward to the next (year)',” Heimann says.
In addition, the Coyotes players took their game-worn jerseys off and signed them for the fans after the game.
Korchin says “We treat every game like a fan appreciation night, so we really just wanted to round that with ‘Pack Pride Night’… to really thank the fans for being there and really make everyone proud to be a part of our pack.”
Reach the writer at email@example.com and on Twitter @ShelbyHyde.