The Arizona Coyotes have been under new ownership for just over a year now. IceArizona, the group led by Anthony LeBlanc and George Gosbee, have been making some more moves this summer to try and help the team get on the right track financially, and as far as Gosbee is concerned things are going quite well.
In an interview with Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona, Gosbee detailed his opinion that the team could actually be profitable earlier than they previously thought possible. Hearing the word profitable at all seems almost hard to believe considering the problems this organization has dealt with over the last few years.
"As an ownership group, we're really comfortable with how the club is working on financial platforms," Gosbee told Morgan. "We've always had a three-year plan for achieving profitability here, but with how well the NHL is doing, we think that could fast-track our plan and we could get there even earlier."
The Coyotes recently signed a new nine-year arena naming rights deal with Gila River Casinos which is expected to pay out $3.5 million annually according to Morgan's report. That will help supplement increased revenue streams afforded to the Coyotes from the NHL's successful events like the Stadium Series, the new Canadian TV rights deal and the current U.S. TV rights deal with NBC worth a total of $2 billion over 10 years.
Even knowing that, since IceArizona took over the team, a lot has been made about the ownership group's five-year out clause that would allow them to break their lease with the City of Glendale and potentially move the team. Gosbee wanted to put that notion on ice.
"I wish people would stop looking at the five-year out clause and start looking at all the long-term deals we're signing," the team's chairman and governor said. "I'm not sure it will matter if I say it, but we're committed to this market for the long run and we keep proving it."
The fact that the naming rights deal with Gila River is a nine-year commitment may be one indicator there's substance to Gosbee's emphatic claims for those still filled with doubt. Morgan also noted several other long-term deals the team has struck with local partners that extend beyond five years.
Additionally Gosbee maintained if the team doesn't become profitable as early as he believes they could, it won't change their level of commitment to keeping the team in the desert.
The Coyotes didn't spend a lot in free agency this year, and that raised some concerns that the team was perhaps not going to be able to add the competitive element to the financially viable element.
The biggest move of the summer was to make the difficult decision to buy out Mike Ribeiro and pay him to not play for the Coyotes. That's money spent, but obviously not the way the team would like to. That said, it's an indicator from ownership that they will do what is in the best interest of the team even if that means making hard financial decisions.
After the roller coaster that was the last several years of the Coyotes' ownership saga, some stability is refreshing. It's certainly not what one would call stable just yet. That may come when and if the Coyotes become a profitable business, but if ownership is confident they can make money where they are, there'd be no reason to move the team elsewhere.
The next big job for Gosbee and his group is to find ways to bring fans back to the stadium. Part of that comes with putting a more competitive team on the ice. The Coyotes clearly have some solid pieces to their team, but there's going to be more work ahead and it's probably going to cost some money.
If the ownership group remains committed, however, it could be interesting to see what's next for this organization after so many years of uncertainty and turmoil.