LeBlanc at town hall meeting with fans: ‘We feel strongly that our home is Gila River Arena’
SCOTTSDALE – The elephant in the room at the Arizona Coyotes’ town hall meeting Tuesday night was the team’s continuing legal battle with the city of Glendale over the city’s vote last month to cancel their arena lease deal.
Coyotes’ President, CEO and co-owner Anthony LeBlanc, who was joined onstage by general manager and executive vice president Don Maloney and head coach Dave Tippett, quickly addressed the issue with the hundreds of fans gathered at the Ice Den. He assured those in attendance that the Coyotes had no plans to leave.
“I’ve had many people suggest, ‘Hey, the right thing to do is to move back downtown.’ Unfortunately it’s not as easy as that,” LeBlanc said. “There is no question, we do have the opportunity right now if we wanted to, to move the franchise.
“We feel strongly that our home is Gila River Arena.”
LeBlanc’s comments drew loud cheers from the supportive crowd. He also said that the legal clash had taken a toll on both sides.
“I don’t think anybody wins this. Even if we were to win, or the city is to win, nobody wins, we’ve already lost,” LeBlanc said. “Don’s struggling this past week, and he did a great job by the way, but he certainly struggled in regards to signing free agents.”
Ron Deangelo, a Coyotes season ticket holder who attended the event, spoke highly of the Coyotes’ efforts to remain in the desert, but was open to the idea of the Coyotes relocating downtown.
“I do believe that he’s committed to the Valley,” Deangelo said. “I hope he hears the message that people will come if they move it to Phoenix and that we will all go there for that. I think you’d be surprised at how full that building would be.”
Kyle Cantfield, another fan in attendance, echoed the sentiments of Deangelo, applauding the team’s endeavors to cultivate a hockey following in the Valley.
“They’re totally committed to Arizona,” Cantfield said. “They see how big of a potential for growth there is for hockey in Arizona and they also recognize the deep passion that already exists here.”
LeBlanc, who became a co-owner of the team in 2013, updated fans on the current situation with Glendale, stating that the summer drama has slowed.
“We feel that things have calmed down, which is a good thing,” LeBlanc said. “I think emotions on both sides have calmed down.
“I’m very hopeful that common sense will prevail and we’ll do the right things.”