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Coyotes’ new owners hope to right the ship

The Phoenix Coyotes aren't exactly going to be a moneymaking machine under their new ownership, but ESPN's Craig Custance, penning an Insider-only column, spoke with IceEdge Arizona's George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc about their plans to turn the franchise around, and Custance outlines fie teps that the previous owners seem to have ignored--gaining sponsorships, snagging a decent TV deal, earning a take on the rink's food and beverage sales, actually asking people to pay to park at the rink and more aggressively-pursuing season-ticket sales--that ought to at least help the Coyotes no longer hemorrhage "desert brick."

Regarding that last point? There's some serious room for improvement:

Despite the success of the Coyotes on the ice, filling the arena has been a challenge. Selling season tickets for a team that may be on the verge of moving is an all but impossible task. LeBlanc said he expects to see a 10 percent growth rate in season-ticket sales in the first season under new ownership, and he called walk-up sales massively important to the Coyotes. The location of the arena in Glendale doesn't make walk-up sales easy, as previous owners discovered.

Last season, the Coyotes were No. 29 in the NHL in attendance, averaging 13,923 per game. The previous year, when the Coyotes advanced to the Western Conference finals, they were dead last in attendance at 12,420 per game. There's momentum in the market with new ownership, and the group is counting on the Coyotes returning to their playoff level after a down year last season to drive ticket sales.

"We need the team to come out of the gate strong. That really, really helps us in selling a product," LeBlanc said. "The reality is we have a very committed fan base. They stuck through this. We have to grow that fan base."

Custance continues, and again, it's behind a paywall, so maybe I can at least share the sponsorship portion thereof:

While the NHL owned the Coyotes, there wasn't a lot of motivation for businesses to invest in a relationship with a local hockey team that might be on its way out of town. That made it a challenge for people on the Coyotes' business side to bring in real revenue. "They did a good job of keeping the lights on," said co-owner Anthony LeBlanc when we chatted last week. "That was their mandate -- to keep the lights on."

That mandate has changed. LeBlanc is a natural salesman and is already coaching up his team to ramp up sales of advertising in the building, advertising on television and the selling of suites. There are 89 suites at Jobing.com Arena, and only a quarter of them have been sold the past couple of years. In the first three weeks under new ownership, 10 more were sold. That's significant, but the Coyotes still have a huge gap to erase compared to other NHL teams in comparable markets.

"If you compare the corporate dollars the Coyotes have been able to generate, as to what other nontraditional Southern franchises have, the numbers are staggeringly different," LeBlanc said. "When the instability hit, the area that was hit the most was corporate. Corporate buys are done well in advance. Nobody was committing to anything if they didn't know if the team was going to be there."

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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