EVERETT — The NHL is coming to Everett. and it’s bringing “The Great One” with it.
The Everett Silvertips announced Tuesday they will be hosting a preseason game between the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning in September.
Phoenix, which is coached by the legendary Wayne Gretzky, and Tampa Bay will face off at 7:35 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22, in what will be the first instance of teams from the highest level of professional hockey gracing the ice at Comcast Arena.
“This is a great opportunity for the people and the community,” Everett general managed Doug Soetaert said. “It’s going to bring in people from all over and it’s going to be rocking.”
September’s game is the culmination of several years of efforts by the Silvertips to bring an NHL exhibition game to Everett.
“I’ve been trying for a couple years to bring a game in here,” said Soetaert, who mentioned Vancouver and Los Angeles among the teams he’s had discussions with in the past. “It just happened to work out with Phoenix. They’re not playing a game in Winnipeg (Phoenix’s previous home as the Jets) anymore, so they were looking for another off-site location.”
In Phoenix and Tampa Bay, Everett will be hosting two teams that struggled in the standings last season, but sport some of the biggest names in the game.
In addition to Gretzky, Phoenix is also home to Everett’s most prominent alumni, center Peter Mueller, who was a star with the Tips and finished fifth in the Calder Trophy voting for NHL rookie of the year in 2008. The Coyotes also recently acquired ex-Silvertip defenseman Shaun Heshka, who’s looking to make his NHL breakthrough after three seasons in the minors in the Vancouver Canucks organization.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay features two of the NHL’s top offensive players in Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. The Lightning also have two of the top young players in the world in center Steven Stamkos, the first-overall pick in the 2008 draft, and defenseman Victor Hedman, the second-overall pick in this year’s draft.
The Tips are hoping the game will further elevate Everett’s profile in the hockey world.
“We’re trying to put Everett on the forefront, which we’ve tried to do from day one, both with the club and the community,” Soetaert. “It will give a lot of people the opportunity to come to the game in an affordable setting. We want people to come and take in the experience of an NHL game. We want people to come and enjoy the evening.”
There’s also thought the game could serve as a testing of the waters for the NHL. There’s long been speculation that Seattle could be a possible destination should the NHL decided to relocate a team. Phoenix is at the top of the list of teams rumored to potentially be on the move.
Season ticket and package holders get first crack at the tickets, with public sales beginning on Aug. 1. Prices range from $50-65.
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog