It seems like the process started an eternity ago, but the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes looks to be at the finish line … Finally.
Yesterday, the NHL finalized the sale of the Coyotes to IceArizona, a group lead by Renaissance Sports & Entertainment’s George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc. The board of governors approved the $170 million US sale.
“This was an incredibly complicated deal that didn’t get wrapped up quite literally until 8 o’clock this morning after pretty much a full weekend of working on it going through the night,” LeBlanc said on a conference call. “No rest for the weary, as they say, and we’re jumping right in now.”
The majority of the 11 total owners are Canadian businessmen that have connections to Arizona. They are trying to get the name changed from Phoenix to Arizona for the 2014-15 season.
“What this franchise has not had over the past 12 years is they’ve never had that combination that I think you need to be successful in the majority of sports markets,” LeBlanc said. “That is strong, stable ownership combined with at least the understanding that you have the potential of your franchise winning.”
“I think it’s every Canadian boy’s dream to own a hockey team,” Gosbee said. “I’ve always wanted to. But it had to be the right deal. When I started talking with Anthony and Daryl over the years, I think the right deal was in the making here in January. I wanted to own the team because I thought, at the end of the day, it’s a sound investment.”
The arena lease with Glendale has an out clause after five years. It was done for business reasons, but it has raised some skepticism.
“I’m a good, solid Canadian like a good number of people in this ownership group and unfortunately it’s very difficult for people to accept that hockey can be successful in a non-traditional market,” LeBlanc said. “But we like to point to markets like San Jose and Dallas, even in the Carolinas, where hockey has really thrived. We feel that the same will happen here. But the reality is it’s an investment and we have to protect ourselves, and hence the reason for the out clause.”
The NHL has always backed the Coyotes being in Glendale/Phoenix.
“The National Hockey League believes in Arizona as an NHL market and that these new owners can provide the Coyotes the opportunity to secure a stable, long-term future in Glendale,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
The Coyotes need to have some success on the ice to lure more fans back and create some new ones along the way. They have a tough road ahead, but the new ownership group should bring some fresh life to the team and fan base, something that was greatly needed.