GLENDALE, Ariz. — A major shift in focus is coming for media outlets who cover the Phoenix Coyotes. There will be no more mentions of prospective ownership groups. There will be no more mentions of arena-lease agreements, no more mentions of relocation and no more need to include that four-year-old back story.
For a change, there will be nothing to discuss but hockey.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday that the league’s Board of Governors is expected to complete approval of the sale of the Coyotes to ICEArizona (nee Renaissance Sports and Entertainment) on Monday. Sources familiar with the situation also said the ownership group is expected to close the $170 million sale of the team on Monday — the deadline set by the City of Glendale when it reached agreement with RSE last month on an arena-management deal for Jobing.com Arena.
Daly had hoped the Board of Governors would complete their vote by Friday via fax, but not all of the votes had been received. Nonetheless, that vote is viewed as a rubber stamp.
The impact of his seismic shift in the franchise’s fortunes has already been felt. The team was able to re-sign general manager Don Maloney and then bring back coach Dave Tippett on a deal that is similar to the five-year, $10 million deal the New York Rangers gave Alain Vigneault. Maloney re-signed goalie Mike Smith to a six-year, $34 million deal, and added free-agent center Mike Ribeiro with a four-year, $22 million deal.
“Every time we approached free agents the past few years, the first question was always, ‘Where are you going to be next year?’” Tippett said. “I’ve always thought this would be an attractive place for players to play if we could ever get stable ownership. Guys loving playing here.”
Now that the franchise has an owner, it’s up to that group, the management team, the coaching staff and the players to make the Coyotes a successful franchise in the NHL and a desired product in the Valley market. Whether they can succeed will depend on a number of factors, including wins, marketing efforts and the willingness of fans in a non-traditional hockey market to support the sport, but at least — for a change — the franchise won’t be tackling this challenge with one hand tied behind its back.