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NHL Centennial Arena visits Arizona

By Jose Romero - Jan 08, 2017

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The NHL has been around 100 years. Sort of hard to believe. 

In honor of that, the league has an interactive traveling fan experience that came through the Phoenix area this weekend. The NHL Centennial Fan Arena will visit all NHL markets across North America in 2017.

I took my son on Sunday. I pre-registered, thinking it might be worthwhile for getting through lines or something.

Not so. 

But let me start over. The event was free, so can't complain. There were things to do for all ages, including shooting plastic pucks and balls and a bouncy house for the kids, and museum trailers, a zamboni virtual reality ride and a photo op with the Stanley Cup for older people.

It was free, so it was crowded. Too crowded. And the RSVP gave no special perks. As the guy in a long line said to me, it was "just a way to get your email."

For those who attend in the future in other markets, be prepared to wait in long lines unless you get there well before it opens and are among the first in line for an attraction. There must be a better way to manage the crowds and lines and waits. 

Our local team, the Arizona Coyotes, made its presence felt, although fans of many teams milled about the grounds. The Coyotes people gave my toddler son a hockey card of player Tobias Rieder and stickers. 

And one thing stood out to me - if the hordes of people who attended are any indication, hockey is important to a lot of people in this area. The Coyotes are often knocked for their low attendance and relevance (or to some, the lack thereof) in this market, which has the NFL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball, NBA and WNBA, not to mention lower-division soccer and arena football.

But the team has a new arena in the works on the east side of the valley, very close to where the fan arena was set up. Plenty of fans make the trek to Glendale in the west to watch the team, and the big money earners in the region are mainly on the east side in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley and Gilbert and Chandler. 

My son and I didn't get to do too much on Sunday because of the long lines, but we made the best of it. And we are glad there is big-time hockey near our home. 

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