SBD/Issue 56/Franchises

Gretzky Believes Coyotes Can Survive In Phoenix Despite Economy

Gretzky Believes Coyotes' Future
Remains In Phoenix
Coyotes Managing Partner & coach Wayne Gretzky yesterday acknowledged that "selling hockey in sunshine states ... is even more difficult with the sudden, sharp recession," but he indicated that he is "fairly confident that the future of his Coyotes is in Phoenix," according to Kevin McGran of the TORONTO STAR. Forbes estimated that the Coyotes lost $9.7M last season, but Gretzky and Coyotes President & COO Douglas Moss "believe the Coyotes can weather this economic storm, which in Arizona hit the housing market first and hardest." Moss said that the team "got creative" after last season, and "through reduced prices [down 10-15%] and a marketing strategy that centres on the promise of a young, rebuilding team, Moss is convinced the Coyotes have sold 70,000 more tickets this year than last" (TORONTO STAR, 12/4). In Toronto, Rob Longley reports the Coyotes "actually are one of the few teams from the so-called struggling markets that are up in attendance, though it is hardly a financial windfall." The team is averaging 14,704 fans through 12 home dates at the 17,799-seat Arena, up from 13,661 last season. Part of the reason is the "innovative marketing and aggressive seat sales," as the team's recently announced "Howliday Pack" promo "allows fans to get ticket[s] to four games for the price of three." Coyotes LW Shane Doan: "If we win, we're good. There's so many people in the valley, so many Canadians here. If you're winning, they will come." Gretzky: "Are we a Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary? Absolutely not. But there's room here for a hockey club. It's a great sports city" (TORONTO SUN, 12/4).

CAPITAL GAIN: In DC, Thomas Boswell writes the Capitals, in "just one year," have transformed their team "so completely that ... it expects to win almost every time out." As Steelers fans "usurp seats at FedEx Field, as the Wizards worry, as the Nats pray for renewals, the Caps are selling." A year ago, one "could debate the dominant pro athlete in town," but now it is Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin "by a mile." Every other major pro sports team in DC, even the "usually exceptional DC United," is now "rebuilding or switching coaches and systems." The Capitals are "lucky in their timing," as the economy "can't find its ripcord." As "disposable entertainment dollars shrink, excitement is what still sells," and with a "high-scoring, creative team, these are the most entertaining Caps ever" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/4).

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