Now the Real Work Begins for Phoenix Coyotes After Sale to IceArizona

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2013

April 27, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Phoenix Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata (17) reacts after scoring his third goal of the game against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The soap opera saga of the Phoenix Coyotes is over. After four years of being operated by the NHL, the sale of the team was formalized Monday.

A month ago, it appeared the Coyotes were on their way out of town—possibly to Seattle or Quebec City—but the team reached an agreement with the city of Glendale, Ariz. to keep them playing in the Arena.

One of the caveats of that deal was a completion of the sale to Renaissance Sports & Entertainment Group (RSEG), headed by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc.

Now that it's happened, the team will remain in Glendale for at least the next five years. However, if the team is going to remain in the desert beyond the short term, the new ownership group is going to have to push the team hard to Phoenix-area fans.

The Coyotes have had varying degrees of success in the desert since they moved to Arizona prior to the 1996-97 season. Their best season came in 2011-12, when the Coyotes won two playoff rounds before they were beaten in the Western Conference Final by the Los Angeles Kings.

With the turmoil of ownership uncertainty lingering in the post-lockout 2013 season, the Coyotes failed to make the playoffs.

It appeared the Glendale City Council was willing to let the Coyotes leave, but the thought of leaving the Arena empty was enough to persuade the council to authorize paying the owners a $15 million per year management fee, according to the Phoenix New Times.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has wanted the NHL to keep its foothold in Phoenix. He's clearly pleased by the turn of events.

"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," Bettman said.

With the sale complete, RSEG will go by the name of IceArizona AcquisitionCo., LLC. The team is most likely going to change its name to the Arizona Coyotes.

General manager Don Maloney and head coach Dave Tippett will stay with the team and Shane Doan will remain captain. That trio was recognized by LeBlanc.

"We are thrilled to be taking over a team led by one of the NHL's best general managers in Don Maloney, one of the best coaches in Dave Tippett, and the League's longest serving and most respected captain in Shane Doan," LeBlanc told

Attendance at Coyotes games is among the big issues. The Coyotes ranked 29th in the league last year, averaging 13,923 fans per game. That was 81.3 percent of Arena's capacity.

The Coyotes averaged 12,420 fans in 2011-12, as fans filled 72.5 percent of the seats available.

If the Coyotes are going to make it work in their current home, they will have to increase attendance dramatically. In 2011-12—the NHL's last full season—21 of the 30 NHL teams played to 95 percent capacity or better.

The Coyotes are going to have to come close to that figure in order to survive in the desert.

The good news is that the team now appears to have stable ownership and the threat of moving has been removed for five years. Now the team must be successful on and off the ice to assure long-term viability.