While most of Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time, that will not stop the Coyotes from turning back the clock on Friday. For the second season in a row, Arizona will wear their old black Kachina sweaters for a special throwback night, with Friday’s game against the Calgary Flames being the first of two such occasions this year. Many of the current Coyotes were just a few years old when the team debuted the Kachina look, while captain Shane Doan was wearing that sweater for his sophomore season. Regardless of age, there will certainly be a high level of nostalgia-fueled excitement in Glendale as Arizona gets set to party like it’s 1996.
Last season, the Kachina jerseys made their first appearance since the 2002-03 season on March 5 when the Coyotes hosted the Vancouver Canucks. Arizona built a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Tobias Rieder and B.J. Crombeen, but Vancouver rallied with two goals in the final 7:39, including the game-tying goal from former Coyote Radim Vrbata in the final minute. In the shootout, Sam Gagner notched the lone goal and Mike Smith stopped all three Canuck shooters to give the Coyotes a 3-2 win. It was a memorable night for Arizona fans in a season that had few bright spots. The victory was one of 11 that the Coyotes had at Gila River Arena in the 2014-15 season, and one of only two wins at home after the All-Star Break.
One of the greatest players to wear the original Coyotes sweater was the team’s first captain, Keith Tkachuk. Tkachuk spent 10 years with the franchise between Winnipeg and Phoenix and scored 323 goals, with 214 of them coming as a Coyote. Tkachuk ranks third among all-time goal scorers for the Coyotes/Jets franchise, trailing Dale Hawerchuk (379) and Doan (374). His best season in Arizona came in the team’s first year in the desert in 1996-97, when he recorded a career-high 52 goals and his second-highest career point total with 86. Tkachuk’s scoring touch carried into Arizona’s first playoff series against the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as he scored six goals. While the Coyotes fell in the seven-game tilt against Anaheim, it was still an exciting first taste of hockey in the desert led by one of the greatest American-born players in NHL history.
Tkachuk’s connection to the Coyotes has continued through his son, Matthew. The younger Tkachuk is currently with the London Knights along with Arizona prospect Christian Dvorak. Matthew Tkachuk leads the Knights with 42 points in 21 games, while Dvorak has the most goals with 16 in 19 appearances. In London’s most recent game on November 22, Matthew Tkachuk had five points, including a hat trick, as the Knights beat Mississauga 9-4.
Charles Woodall-Pike is a journalist who writes about the Arizona Coyotes for The Hockey Writers.