Anthony LeBlanc has a message for the Coyotes fan — or anyone, really — who looks at the five-year out clause that is part of his group’s purchase of the team as reason to be skeptical of their intentions of making hockey work in the desert.
“I understand that people have trepidation whenever the concept of an out clause comes up, but I think everyone needs to understand this is a business investment and we need to be protected in case the worst-case scenario happens,” he told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Wednesday. “But what I think everyone needs to understand is why would we be getting involved in this, why would we be putting tens of millions of our own dollars into this?
“Let’s not forget, the only way we can exercise the out clause is if we lost an additional $50 million.”
Very well then.
LeBlanc, who is heading Renaissance Sports & Entertainment, the group that plans on purchasing the team from the NHL, wants to make it clear they are “100 percent committed to this market.”
“The final point,” he said, “the reality is if our interest was in moving this franchise we just had to sit on the sidelines another week.”
LeBlanc was alluding to statements from the NHL that essentially said a failed vote Tuesday would have led to hockey being declared a failure in Arizona.
But the vote passed, meaning LeBlanc’s group can go ahead with their NHL-approved purchase of the franchise.
Now that the Coyotes are set to have stable ownership for the first time in nearly half a decade, the next challenge is to make a sport that has struggled to gain traction profitable.
“I’m a Canadian, I’m a hockey guy,” LeBlanc noted when talking about the team’s on-ice struggles. “If a Canadian club, with maybe the exception of the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens, if Canadian teams go eight to 10 years without making the playoffs they’re going to have a significant problem at the gate.”
Prior to the arrival of head coach Dave Tippett in 2009, the Coyotes had missed the postseason six consecutive seasons — and seven of the previous eight. A once moderately successful franchise had fallen on some very hard times, and by the time things started to turn around on the ice things very much went south off it.
Combine losing-related apathy with a draining ownership saga, it’s understandable why fans would stay away.
These days the on-ice product is in great shape and the ownership situation finally appears to be settled, meaning it’s up to LeBlanc (who plans on making Arizona his full-time home) and his group to get to work.
“We just have to go out and market and make sure people understand this team is here to stay,” he said, adding he thinks the Coyotes should be able to be a middle of the pack franchise comparable to the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars.
“That’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to get people into the building,” he said. “The corporates will now be interested because of the fact that this team is here to stay.”