Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New NHL TV Deal in Canada Could Be a 'Grand Slam' for the Coyotes

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New NHL TV Deal in Canada Could Be a 'Grand Slam' for the Coyotes

Article excerpt

NHL TV deal could be 'grand slam' for Coyotes

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - When the new Canadian-led ownership group assumed control of the Phoenix Coyotes, it was full-speed ahead to get everything in order.

Hockey was taken care of thanks to general manager Don Maloney, but on the business side the new owners had two months from closing the sale until the season started. They needed to sell tickets, sell luxury suites and get a new concession agreement in place.

"It's been a lot of work," president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said.

Less than two months later, LeBlanc didn't have to do any work and got to simply smile when the NHL announced a 12-year, $5.2-billion Canadian exclusive-rights television deal with Rogers. The seven Canadian teams will benefit the most because they get a bigger chunk of the money, but it will help the Coyotes almost as much because, as LeBlanc said, "every dollar is important" right now for that franchise.

"League revenues that come to us are a big part of our numbers," LeBlanc said Monday in an interview with The Canadian Press at the Inn at Spanish Bay, where the NHL board of governors were meeting. "We'd like to get to the point of being like the Rangers and the Leafs where we're more revenue-driven through our own efforts, but the reality is in markets like our market, national-television deals are really important."

Of course it didn't come out of the blue. LeBlanc, George Gosbee and the rest of the ownership group figured something good was coming with the new Canadian rights contract. They just didn't know how good.

"We didn't feel that we were just buying the Phoenix Coyotes, we were buying 1/30th of the NHL," LeBlanc said. "And one of the things that was always attractive to us was the potential of the TV deal. We thought that the TV deal was going to be a home run. I didn't expect it to be a grand slam."

This kind of windfall -- US$4.9 billion spread out over 30 teams -- helps everyone. More money in owners' pockets isn't something they're complaining about.

Perhaps the rapidly rising salary cap is an issue to teams that traditionally spend only to the floor because the Rogers deal is expected to boost the cap significantly in the 2015-16 season.

Under new ownership, the Coyotes aren't a floor team, and they've worked with the NHL on future cap estimations to make sure they were prepared.

"We don't see any concerns. From our perspective we feel very confident," LeBlanc said. "We anticipate it's going to be quite a few years until the floor would reach that level that we're at currently, and we've already baked in, again, in our model the ability to increase our spending year over year. …

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