GLENDALE - The Coyotes have turned to Steve Patterson to play the key role in cementing the team's future in Arizona.
Patterson, the club's new President and CEO, has been hired to lead the effort to secure a new arena and to continue to grow the game of hockey and fan base in a non-traditional market for the sport.
"I've got a lot of empathy for the fans here," Patterson said last week after being introduced, along with Head Coach Rick Tocchet, as part of the team's dynamic new management team. "There are a lot of great hockey fans in the Valley and there are a lot of transplants from Canada and the Midwest that spend their winters here. At times, it has been tough to be a Coyotes fan. There's been a lot of ups and downs, questions about ownership and whether the team was staying, but our owner Andy Barroway has made it clear that he's committed to keeping the team here and to finding an arena solution. Hopefully we can get that solved in the relatively near future so that people understand that the franchise isn't going anywhere."
The Coyotes conducted an extensive executive search for their new President and CEO, and Patterson stood out among the candidates. His resume chronicles 30-plus years of sports management experience that includes noteworthy stops in the NFL and the NBA, at the University of Texas and at Arizona State University. While in Tempe, Patterson was responsible for all ASU Athletic Department business and sports operations, acquisition, development and operation of current and new sports facilities, and the development of the 425-acre Sports Facilities District adjacent to the university. He also facilitated the baseball team's move to Phoenix Municipal Stadium and the golf team's move to Papago Golf Course.
As mentioned, Patterson's top priority in his new role is to broker a deal for a new state-of-the-art arena for the Coyotes in the East Valley. The team is banking on utilizing his experience gained in making other arena/stadium deals in Houston (NFL & NBA), in Portland (NBA), and in Tacoma (AAA baseball), and on utilizing the working relationships Patterson crafted with movers and shakers in Arizona during his time at ASU to help their quest for a new arena succeed. And the sooner, the better.
"The time frame is to try to get it done as expeditiously as we possibly can," Patterson said. "I've done a number of these deals and they're complicated deals. They take time and the key really is to build a constituency that includes the fans, the community, the ownership of the team, elected and appointed officials, the media, and our sponsors, to make sure that it meets all of their needs and that people recognize the benefit of having a new facility, not just for the Coyotes, but for the community as a whole. We're willing to talk to anybody in the Valley to make sure that we have a successful arena solution that provides stability for the franchise and the resources to support the hockey operation."
Barroway raved about Patterson's accomplishments at the press conference announcing his hiring last week, and made it known that the Coyotes are fortunate to have Patterson on board in such a crucial role.
"He has the skill set," Barroway said. "He's done it before. What we're asking him to do is a really big job, it's certainly not easy, and he has the experience, the intelligence, the contacts and the commitment to the Valley to do it. It was a combination of all those things. We thought he was the clear choice."
The NHL has supported hockey in Arizona since 1996 and has not wavered on that stance. The sport has a solid future here, the League believes, and Patterson shares that view.
"Twenty-plus years ago, who would have thought the No. 1 draft pick in the NHL would come from Phoenix, Arizona," Patterson said, in reference to Auston Matthews, who grew up playing hockey in Scottsdale en route to becoming the first overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft. "I mean, that would have been a mind-boggling thought at that time. So clearly we've seen a lot of growth in hockey here. It's not the same as a market like Toronto, but we've got one generation of kids that have grown up here knowing NHL hockey and we want to continue that and get a second, and a third, and a fourth and so on."
The League's stance, and Barroway's commitment to the market, keyed Patterson's decision to take the job.
"I didn't come back here to come to a franchise that's going to get moved again or get flipped or something like that," Patterson said. "My wife and I wanted to come back here to a place that we love and put our roots back down and get this building done and get this franchise winning in the playoffs, year in and year out."
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