GLENDALE – The sellout crowd at Jobing.com Arena on Thursday night gave the team’s new nine-member ownership group, IceArizona, a standing ovation as they collectively dropped the puck on a new era for the team.
Co-owner W R “Bill” Dutton actually dropped the ceremonial puck, and the Coyotes responded with a 4-1 thumping of the New York Rangers.
|Photo by Norm Hall. |
“It was really exciting for us to see how excited those owners were on the ice,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said after the game. “When they walked back off in front of the bench they looked like they were living their dream just like we live our dream with the jobs that we have. That's a good mix. It made you feel really good.”
Goalie Mike Smith agreed.
“To see all the owners who bought the team and kept the team in Phoenix and the arena out there was unbelievable,” Smith said. “The response they got from the crowd was deservedly so and obviously the fans deserve it too.”
Before the game, Executive Chairman and Governor George Gosbee, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman answered questions from the media.
“We’re really happy that we were able to pull this off for the fans, for the community, for the players and for the Coyotes’ organization that has been through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of obstacles and lot of uncertainty,” Gosbee said “ … I think we do have a good product.”
|Photo by Getty Images. |
While they did take part in the pre-game hoopla, the owners did not address the team - Knute Rockne style - before the first game.
"When I addressed the team at the opening of camp, I said 'this is the first time you're going to see me and the last time you're going to see me,' " LeBlanc said. "We'll leave the rest to Don (Maloney) and coach (Dave) Tippett."
Bettman is eager to watch the Coyotes evolve under new ownership.
"We, and by that I mean the League and the Board of Governors, always believed this market could and would support hockey,” Bettman said. “For a variety of reasons and circumstances over the years we were never able to see the most this franchise could do with stability and a clear runway.
He added, "It's the dawn of a new era and one that bodes extraordinarily well for hockey in the desert."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click HERE to read bios of all of the Coyotes new co-owners pictured above.