Coyotes Awaiting AHL’s Approval on Purchase of Franchise
/ Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – The Coyotes hope to have their agreement to purchase the Springfield Falcons approved by the American Hockey League’s Board of Governors at that entity’s next meeting set for May 10.
If approved, the Coyotes plan to move their AHL team to Tucson starting in 2016-17.
“There’s no way Tucson doesn’t make sense,” Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. “It’s a great market with a large population of a million people, and it’s the largest market in the U.S. that doesn’t have a pro or semipro (sports) organization.”
LeBlanc said that if the deal goes through the AHL team would play its home games at the Tucson Convention Center, which seats about 6,700 fans for hockey; the University of Arizona’s hockey team plays there.
LeBlanc said the facility would need some upgrades with regards to its back-end features such as locker rooms and training facilities. But the front end, he said, is looking good.
“They’ve put a significant amount of money into the building over the last two years,” LeBlanc said, referring to the City and Rio Nuevo, which facilitates and participates in the development of a vibrant downtown Tucson “…They’ve replaced everything that their customer interacts with… The biggest challenge once we get everything settled will be dates in the building.”
LeBlanc said having the team’s top affiliate so close to the Phoenix area is a huge convenience that extends beyond player recalls. The big plus is it will allow the team’s NHL and AHL staffs to work more closely and integrate more easily.
“This is about development,” LeBlanc said. “This is about a philosophy and a culture of doing a better job of developing our players.”
The AHL’s Pacific Division, in which the Coyotes would like their AHL team to be placed, is comprised of teams affiliated with the Ducks, Flames, Kings, Oilers and Sharks. To join the division, the Coyotes needed to buy an existing team and move it west.
“It’s a real investment, but it’s one that we believe in,” LeBlanc said. “It’s one we felt we had to do.” He added: “This is a part of the Coyotes. It’s not an offshoot, something that’s going to be focused on every once in a while. This is going to be a key part of the growth of the franchise.”
LeBlanc said the name of the AHL team will be changed. In fact, he said Coyotes executives had a new name picked out on Tuesday when the purchase agreement was announced, but he quickly decided to hold off on that name based on the public’s reaction to the news.
“I thought it was great that people were so engaged immediately with what the team name is going to be,” LeBlanc said. “Once I saw the reaction yesterday I went back to the senior (executive) team and said ‘I think we’ve got to go out and do a Name the Team contest because there’s an awful lot of passion behind what the name should be.’”
LeBlanc said the AHL team’s new color scheme likely will resemble the color scheme of the Coyotes for convenience sake.