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George Gosbee, instrumental in keeping Coyotes in Arizona, dies at 48

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, left, arrives at a news conference with new Phoenix Coyotes' co-owner George Gosbee before an NHL hockey game between the New York Rangers and the Coyotes, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Anthony LeBlanc had been involved with a couple ownership groups that were trying to buy the Coyotes, but the financial situation was never right. In January of 2013, LeBlanc’s business partner, Daryl Jones had an idea.

“He said, there’s a guy I know that I think might be able to help get the equity done,'” LeBlanc said. That guy was AltaCorp Capital Inc. founder and CEO George Gosbee, whom Jones had befriended about 14 years earlier through business ties.

“I reached out to George and he got pretty excited,” Jones said. “The thing took on a life of its own and we got it done three or four or months later.

“I doubt this team is in Arizona if not for George Gosbee. There’s no exaggeration to that. We were struggling to get the deal done. The power of his business relationships and his drive got it done, and he knew so many owners so it gave us credibility with the league.”

Gosbee, 48, died Sunday, leaving behind his parents, John and Edna, and his three children, John, Carter and Isla. The news sent shockwaves through the league office, his former ownership group, the organization and the greater Coyotes community.

“It was shocking, it was sad and it was tragic,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said by phone Monday. “I don’t know how else to describe it. He was smart, he was affable, he was friendly and he just struck me as being an all-around good guy. Obviously, our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.”

Like Jones, LeBlanc, Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly all stressed Gosbee’s role in the Coyotes remaining in Arizona.

“George stepped up at a time when this franchise needed him most,” Daly wrote in an email. “He and his partners created an opportunity for the Coyotes to carve a long-term future in the Valley — an opportunity that may not have existed without them.

“His contributions were many and were valued. He will be sorely missed by the NHL community.”

Former Coyotes captain Shane Doan said he stayed in touch with Gosbee after current Coyotes majority owner Andrew Barroway bought out the other owners in June. Of all the members of that ownership group, Doan was closest with Gosbee.

“He was the type of guy that I wanted to follow,” Doan said. “When he came into the room, he had a presence that people gravitated toward and I don’t think I had a single conversation with him that didn’t involve us laughing and talking about some crazy trip or event or passion that he had, whether it was doing the South Pole or going to Africa.

“I always felt better after talking to him.”

LeBlanc was boarding a plane Monday when he received the news from former Coyotes co-owner Craig Stewart.

“I’m just devastated,” said LeBlanc, who keeps a massive photo in his home office of Gosbee, Bettman and LeBlanc on the day that the league announced IceArizona’s purchase of the Coyotes. “It’s so like guys to do this, but I looked through my history and the last time he and I communicated was on his birthday in late August and he actually told me: ‘Having an epic summer, one for the history books!’

“I refer to George as a dear friend. George was a beautiful person. He knew everybody and everybody knew him. He was one of the most important people I have met in my life. We all have our ups and downs but this is one guy where I’m flabbergasted to know he’s gone.”

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