GLENDALE, Ariz. — More than three years after his trade to the Blackhawks, Dylan Strome no longer feels anything different when he faces his former team, the Coyotes.
Thursday’s matchup was his seventh so-called revenge game — a number he did remember off the top of his head, for what it’s worth — and fourth such game in Arizona. After a while, there’s no more revenge to be extracted.
“The management and everyone, everything, [has] changed since I was here,” he said. “I know a few of the guys on the team, but it’s been long enough that I’ve moved past it.”
But Strome does still recall what a “great place to live” the Phoenix area was — a sentiment shared by many players.
“It’s pretty beautiful every day,” he said. “The quality of life here is really good. [There are] a lot of healthy places to eat, a lot of golf courses, beautiful scenery, mountains and stuff. People are up and active and moving. I’m not surprised guys like to play here.”
The possibility of losing all of Arizona’s uniqueness from the NHL circuit is the unfortunate side of the Coyotes’ very uncertain future.
The long-embattled franchise’s problems appear headed toward a climax in 2022. Relatively new owner Alex Meruelo’s brief reign has been plagued by scandals, financial issues and rampant dysfunction on and off the ice.
The team is being forced out of Gila River Arena after this season and has flirted with an even earlier departure; the city of Glendale threatened to lock the arena doors in December due to $1.3 million in unpaid taxes. Relocation rumors have swirled, particularly involving Houston, although anything seems possible at this point.
Even the Coyotes do leave Arizona this summer, however, Thursday won’t be the Hawks’ last-ever visit. They’re scheduled to make one more desert trip this season on Apr. 20.
Three added to COVID list
The Blackhawks’ lineup Thursday against the Coyotes was thrown into a blender with three late additions to COVID-19 protocols.
In addition to Brandon Hagel, newly acquired forward Sam Lafferty and defenseman Erik Gustafsson were also placed on the COVID list just minutes before warmups, joining goalie Kevin Lankinen as the now-four Hawks unavailable due to the virus.
That put the Hawks in a bind personnel-wise. Nicolas Beaudin comically skated during warmup line rushes on the first line with Patrick Kane and Henrik Borgstrom, but the Hawks’ lines fluctuated all night with 11 forwards and seven defensemen dressed.
Mike Hardman and Ian Mitchell were also recalled to the active roster along with Beaudin. They’ll presumably join the team in Las Vegas.
Interim coach Derek King had said earlier in the day, before the COVID news, he was looking forward to integrating Lafferty into the roster.
“He’s an energy guy,” he said. “The reports I’m getting back are he’s got a little more skill than people give him credit for. But he plays hard and we could use that.”
Another game postponed
The Hawks’ scheduled Jan. 18 road game against the Oilers was postponed by the NHL, increasing the Hawks’ number of postponed games to six.
This particular change wasn’t surprising given how many other Canadian games have been postponed in advance this month with revenue preservation in mind. The league hopes to reschedule the games later in the season when provincial Canadian governments are allowing fans again.