On The Road, Coyotes Look To Spur Team Bonding As Season Approaches

This time of year revolves around growth in many aspects.

On the ice, sure, when new systematic concepts are put into place. Physically, of course, as players reap the results of a long summer focused on conditioning. Mentally, without a doubt, as a fresh mindset subsequent to a well-balanced offseason graces many as a long, grueling season awaits.

Then there's the off-ice chemistry. The Coyotes are already off to a head start in that element.

Arizona looks toward its season through a rather consistent eye player-wise. Returning a core that has undergone very little turnover in addition to a boost provided by way of a couple of welcomed acquisitions, the make-up of the team's late-stage training camp roster remains quite familiar with each other.

Their relations, oft described as tight knit, are largely strengthened when traveling. And when it comes to building camaraderie in the National Hockey League, 41 road dates will certainly help expedite that process.

The Coyotes are off on their first extended road trip of the season, a six-day venture that includes three games in three cities. A valuable time to continue to reconnect, and to further relationship building with their new teammates.

"Going on the road is a lot of fun," said Lawson Crouse before the team departed for Edmonton. "You get to do a lot of team dinners, it's a good bonding experience. When we're home, guys hang out, but guys have families, they have kids, they have girlfriends or wives. When you go on the road you're just with your team, it's a lot of fun."

The team will first play in Edmonton against the Oilers on Tuesday night, followed by contests on Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks and on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks to put a cap on their preseason schedule.

"It's exciting, we all miss each other throughout the summer and it's always nice to get back and to get back on the road with the guys," said Jakob Chychrun Monday's practice. "When we have a nice long road trip together we have some fun, we go to dinners and play some cards on the plane. It's just the little stuff that helps the team grow and bond before the season starts, and this will be a good opportunity."

Only four of the 31 players traveling with the team were not with the Arizona organization in any capacity last season. All but seven played together as a member of the Coyotes at one time or another during the 2018-19 campaign.

"We're a pretty close group from last year, a lot of guys came back, said Michael Grabner, who enters his second season with the team. "Everyone's excited to get on the road, get a few card games in, and spend some time together. It's been a long summer, so getting a little break and getting some time on the road with the guys will definitely be a good experience."

All in all, training camp is about preparation - and that doesn't fall short of bonding.

"I think that's part of this trip too," Oliver Ekman-Larsson said of the team bonding experience. "I think [John] Chayka and [Rick] Tocchet probably talked that through and wanted us to get on the road and try to get back as a group away from home for a bit."

As team captain, Ekman-Larsson sees the morale of the team through a large scope, a condition of team success he takes very serious, but in a relaxed manner.

"We have a real good chemistry already, we're only just about 10 days into camp here and I feel like it's only going to get better," he added. "Now when we go on the road, we go to some dinners together, and when we're stuck in a hotel together, I think that's when we really bond and get to know each other, so it's going to be nice."

Putting a winning formula into action flirts with being cliché terminology when characterizing the objective of any given training camp.

For the Coyotes in Edmonton, and Vancouver, and Anaheim, that formula is naturally being put into place.

"It's important that you're having fun as a team off the ice, that you're bonding, because that's how you're going to be a winning team on the ice."

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