By: Richard Duflo
As the 2016-17 NHL seasons draws near for the Arizona Coyotes, so does a crucial point in the organization’s existence in Arizona.
For most teams in the NHL it’s just another season, but for Arizona it’s more than that.
It’s the beginning of a time that will have lasting effects on the on-ice product, the organization as a whole, the organization’s time in Arizona and the fanbase.
The legal battles are coming to an end, and the focus is finally starting to set all on hockey.
For the first time since the team was located in downtown Phoenix, the Coyotes are on stable ground. The ownership group, IceArizona, took over in 2013 and have wasted no time in turning the hockey culture around in Arizona.
IceArizona’s ownership and their attempts to change the hockey culture comes at just the right time as it is accompanied by the Coyotes’ highly rated prospect pool on the verge of fruition.
Sure, giveaways, one-dollar beer nights and other popular promotions will attract a crowd here and there, but what really matters, is the on-ice product. The team needs to win and endear themselves to the fans. Having one of the top rated prospect pools in the NHL is an effective way to accomplish this.
If the development of the prospects goes well, the team will be successful on the ice. Because they are home grown, the fans will know them from the very beginning of their careers. That goes a long way in strengthening the fanbase through player loyalty, especially now that the team has brought their AHL affiliate to Tucson. Fans will now be connected to the players before they even begin their NHL careers.
The Coyotes organization has never really been in this position. They are on the verge of transforming themselves into highly skilled and speedy team that’s exciting to watch. Fans in Arizona got a glimpse into that reality during the 2015-16 season when prospects like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair were on the ice. All of this is being accomplished with home grown talent.
The Coyotes are about to grow themselves a new identity. One that will allow for them to be a competitive team for multiple years to come. This transition must be handled carefully and correctly if it is to be successful. This could be the organization’s last chance to re-secure a foothold in relevancy of the sports landscape in Arizona.
The team has a legitimate shot to be successful in Arizona after all of the ownership drama of recent years. They now have a committed ownership group behind them, a highly skilled crop of players about to come into their own and the soon to be new arena in the East Valley. The stars are aligning for success in the desert.
It’s an important time for the organization, if handled correctly, there is no reason for the team to not find and sustain success.