It has only taken four years but finally (FINALLY!) the Coyotes have a new owner signed, sealed and delivered.
On Monday the NHL announced that it has sold the Coyotes franchise to the IceArizona/Renaissance Sports and Entertainment group that negotiated a new arena lease with the city of Glendale, a prerequisuite to purchase the team.
"The National Hockey League believes in Arizona as an NHL market and that these new owners can provide the Coyotes the opportunity to secure a stable, long-term future in Glendale," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We thank Mike Nealy, Don Maloney, Dave Tippett, team captain Shane Doan and all the players and staff for consistently going 'above and beyond' on behalf of the franchise during this long and complex process. We thank the Coyotes' devoted fans for their patient, perseverant support. We are extremely pleased that a positive resolution has been achieved for the fans, the city, the Coyotes and the League."
"We are extremely pleased to have finalized the transaction with the NHL and to take ownership of the Coyotes franchise," said George Gosbee, Chairman and Governor of the Coyotes. "We extend our sincere gratitude to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly for their hard work and commitment to the Coyotes franchise and our great fans here in Arizona. We also thank the City Council members and residents of the City of Glendale for their tremendous support. Finally, to our fans and partners in the Valley, thank you for your continued loyalty, commitment and patience for the Coyotes. The future looks bright for our franchise."
There you have it, the Coyotes are in the desert to stay and are no longer owned by the league. It's been a long time since we could say both of those things with certainty but now we can and it's not a moment too soon.
The new ownership group is made up of 10 people, most famously led by Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc. They are joined by Avik Dey, Gary J. Drummond, W. David Duckett, W.R. Dutton, Daryl Jones, Robert Gwin, Scott Saxberg, Craig Stewart and Richard Walter.
"We are thrilled to be taking over a team led by one of the NHL's best general managers in Don Maloney, one of the best coaches in Dave Tippett, and the league's longest serving and most respected Captain in Shane Doan," LeBlanc, the pending CEO, said. "The Coyotes are here to stay and we will continue to work hard on and off the ice and have a strong presence in our community. Our ultimate goal is to bring a Stanley Cup championship to our tremendously resilient, passionate and dedicated fan base here in the Valley. We have a lot of work to do and we can't wait to get started."
Now the fans in Arizona will be able to enjoy a sense of stability as the team tries to move forward from this drawn-out saga which has surely beaten down the fans in the desert. The storm clouds hovered over their heads as if they were in a cartoon, the rain pouring down on only them.
Frankly, what the Coyotes have done on the ice during this unstable time has been remarkable. They made it to the Western Conference finals two seasons ago, losing to the champion Kings. They've been very competitive despite a low budget but now that will pick up. Already we've seen the payroll go up as the Coyotes landed one of the biggest free agents in Mike Ribeiro.
Of course there will be talk about the out clause built into the arena lease with the city of Glendale but please, let's leave that conversation alone for a little while, like at least a year. If nothing else, the hockey fans in Arizona deserve a break from all of this to go back to just enjoying hockey.