Coyotes plan to bid on 2018 World Junior Championship
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's no secret that the Coyotes' success in the Phoenix and Arizona markets is tied to their ability to grow the game in the Valley and state. On Thursday, the team announced its interest in a pair of events that might help in that regard.
Majority owner Andrew Barroway, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc and general manager Don Maloney, met with USA Hockey leadership at the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus to express interest in hosting the World Junior Championship at Gila River Arena in 2018. The team said it intends to submit a bid, which is due in March.
The Coyotes are also in discussion with Arizona State University to serve as the home arena for some big Sun Devils games as early as next year while working with ASU on a joint application to host an upcoming NCAA Frozen Four tournament.
The soonest the latter could happen is 2019, but LeBlanc said a specific Frozen Four has not been targeted yet.
"The thing that's really compelling about a Frozen Four, besides the fact ASU is moving to Division I status, is that there's a history of the Frozen Four being held in non-traditional markets," LeBlanc said.
Tampa, Florida hosted the Frozen Four in 2012 and will again in 2016. Anaheim, California hosted it in 1999.
"This is an opportunity that we think has some real legs and it's only because of what ASU is doing with its move to Division I," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said there is no question at this point that the Coyotes will partner with ASU in some capacity, but he reiterated that any talk of the Sun Devils playing games at Gila River Arena is premature.
Rocky Harris, who is ASU athletics Chief of Staff, said he, athletic director Ray Anderson and ASU hockey coach Greg Powers met with Barroway, LeBlanc and other members of the Coyotes ownership group during the Flyers game on Dec. 29 to have preliminary talks. The sides talked again on Tuesday and decided to send a joint group to the Frozen Four in Boston in April to scout the tournament and gather information.
"The Coyotes have been incredibly supportive of us, from the ownership group to the executives through every part of the organization," Harris said. "They very clearly see the opportunity here to increase exposure for the game and help grow the game at all levels."
If ASU were to play games at Gila River Arena, it would likely only be a couple of major games per year, such as tournaments or a game against the University of Arizona. There are numerous logistics to work out before that happens.
As for hosting the World Junior Championship, LeBlanc acknowledged that it is a longshot.
"Ultimately, it's about convincing USA Hockey and ourselves that we will get the crowds to make it a success," LeBlanc said. "There's a reason that USA Hockey has put past tournaments very close to the Canadian border. Canadians, in general, are much more excited about the World Junior Championship than any other nation, but our view is Canadians certainly love coming to Arizona."
"I've heard a couple of different numbers bandied about and they've never been confirmed but I've heard that there are as many as 500,000 Canadians in Arizona from Alberta and (British Columbia) alone.
"When you think about the fact that we naturally have a lot of Canadians and you look at the dates -- around Dec. 26 to Jan. 3 -- it's pretty attractive time frame for people looking to travel to see the World Juniors. No disrespect to some of the northern climate cities like Buffalo or Detroit, but if you're going to drive down there would you prefer to fly down to Arizona and spend the week enjoying the wonderful weather, resorts, golf and other things available to you?"
Both of Florida's NHL franchises have also expressed interest in hosting the 2018 tournament, along with Detroit, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
The World Junior Championship would require two venues, but LeBlanc said US Airways Center, Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley could all be viable options. The next two tournaments will be held in Helsinki, Finland (2016) and in Canadian cities Montreal, Quebec and Toronto in 2017.
"Ultimately, what we like about these events is the opportunity it affords to continue to grow hockey's visibility in the market and get people who typically wouldn't come here to do so to watch hockey."