So much was new.
There was fresh paint outside each blue line announcing the start of another season.
The seats were decorated with white shirts proclaiming the latest slogan “Hungrier Than Ever.”
And obviously the introduction of nine of the 11-member ownership group IceArizona at center ice before puck drop hasn’t happened before.
“It made you feel really good about what we’ve done in the past to keep this organization moving forward and what the future holds when you see guys like that so excited about the organization” coach Dave Tippett said.
Change was on display and celebrated when the Coyotes opened their season Thursday at Jobing.com Arena but it hasn’t infiltrated and corrupted the identity of this team.
That was painstakingly protected while the off-season renovations took place and so in their debut the Coyotes executed a systematic 4-1 win in front of an announced sellout of 17125 against the New York Rangers led by a workman-like natural hat trick by wing Radim Vrbata.
“I don’t think we’re going to reinvent the wheel now that we have ownership” goalie Mike Smith said. “In order for this team to win we have to play a certain way and we did that tonight. That was an excellent example of how we have to play to win.”
The strategy of structured disciplined and hard-working hockey made the Coyotes successful when the exact opposite was expected so it was entirely fitting that the first goal of the season — the first in this era of stability — came courtesy of the fourth line on a lunch-pail effort when center Kyle Chipchura sent a one-timer past goalie Henrik Lundqvist at 3:36 of the first period.
Then Vrbata took over completing the fifth hat trick of his career and second in consecutive games. Vrbata also had a hat trick in last season’s finale against the Anaheim Ducks.
In the second 3:27 after defenseman Mark Staal tied it with a top-shelf shot on the power play Vrbata collected a loose puck just outside the crease and buried it into the open net with Lundqvist out of position to make it 2-1.
Both Coyotes goals came after impressive power plays an improvement led by newly-acquired center Mike Ribeiro. The momentum carried over to the ensuing shifts and the Coyotes capitalized on an unorganized and tired Rangers crew.
“We know the structure and now we have a good player (Ribeiro) who can make those plays” Vrbata said.
In the third the power play finally converted. After a successful faceoff win by center Antoine Vermette defenseman Keith Yandle set up Vrbata whose slap shot inside the blue line beat Lundqvist 1:10 into the period.
Later Vrbata scored his third straight after he pressured a Rangers defenseman into a turnover and once again pounced on a rebound at 7:23 to bump the Coyotes lead to 4-1.
So much was new.