The Phoenix Coyotes are looking forward to kicking off a new era with a new ownership team supporting them as they face the New York Rangers Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena.
One of the Coyotes’ new owners described opening day as the culmination of all his work in successfully purchasing the team from the NHL.
“It feels like Christmas morning over here,” Anthony LeBlanc told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf on Thursday. “It’s euphoria. We’ve worked on this (ownership deal) for so long. I’ve been in and out of this for four years.”
LeBlanc, as president, CEO and co-owner of the Coyotes, is responsible for all the hiring within the organization as well as finding sponsorship and media deals for the club. However, the Canada native said he leaves all “hockey decisions” to general manager Don Maloney.
“We look at (Maloney) and we look at (head coach) Dave Tippett as, quite frankly, hockey geniuses,” LeBlanc said. “We were very direct in our conversations with the league as we were negotiating that those two gentlemen need to be a part of it. And the league agreed that they are such an important part of the business.
“The good news is (Maloney) has got a little bit more financial leeway than he’s had in the past.”
LeBlanc said he’s looking forward to a sellout crowd against the Rangers, and that it will be an opportunity for the franchise to thank the fans for sticking with the team and staying patient throughout the team’s ownership uncertainty. However, he said he won’t dwell on the team’s offseason changes for too long.
“We’re looking forward to retiring the phrase ‘Here to Stay,” the CEO said. “As of tonight, when the puck drops, it’s time to focus on the future; it’s time to focus on hockey. But I think the fans will be excited, and I anticipate that the mood in the building will be fairly intense.”
LeBlanc said ticket sales and sponsorships are higher than they were last year. He said he’s expecting to average around 15,000 fans this year; the team averaged just under 14,000 in attendance last season, according to HockeyAttendance.com. By his third year with the Coyotes, LeBlanc said he wants to average around 17,000, which he calls a “virtual sellout every night.”