There is "plenty going on behind the scenes with IceArizona as it settles into its first year as the ownership group" of the Coyotes, even as the team and its performance "continue to grab the most attention," according to Sarah McLellan of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Team President & CEO Anthony LeBlanc said, "I'm probably a little disappointed in where we are with attendance. There are those marquee games like the Chicago game, which was obviously a very big night for us from the perspective that we broke the regular-season franchise record for gate revenue for a single game. But (two weeks ago), we had the Islanders and Carolina in town and there was roughly 10,000, 11,000 people in the building, and that’s simply not good enough. So we know those are the nights we have a lot of work to do." He added, "There are some positives, but there’s a lot more work. We need stronger support." LeBlanc also discussed how the Coyotes can "grow the sport in the region." He said, "You’ll start seeing that in the first part of the New Year as we put together some more involvement with the Coyotes in youth hockey. We really want to make some changes, and this is something I remember shortly after we closed, [Coyotes RW] Shane Doan sat down with myself and one of my partners, Daryl Jones, and outlined his thoughts on how the Coyotes should be involved in minor hockey in the community. So we’ve already had a meeting with all the directors for youth hockey in the region, and we’re just trying to put an umbrella in place that we can all work closely together and enhance the sport." Asked what his New Year's resolution for the organization is, LeBlanc said, "For myself on the business side, I’d like to see attendance increase. It's increased and gone up year over year, but we need to see that number go up. So I’m going to be working with our marketing department and our sales department and just the community at large to have more people come out to see this product" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/25).
NBA Kings officials said that the club has “donated more than $1 million to local charities and organizations” since Vivek Ranadive’s ownership group took control six months ago, according to team officials cited in a front-page piece by Ryan Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The franchise “conducted a holiday-themed campaign called ‘The 12 Days of Giving Big’ that benefited 60 local organizations and featured toy drives and Kings players visiting children in hospitals” and also has donated 10% of season-ticket proceeds generated through Oct. 10 to "more than two dozen local organizations.” The gifts from that effort “totaled more than $400,000.” NBA franchises have “a long-standing track record of donating to community causes around the world," but Lillis notes the Kings’ “largesse carries an added dimension.” Political consultants said that the Kings’ philanthropy “makes sense from a public relations perspective,” given that a plan calling for the city of Sacramento to contribute $258M to a “new downtown arena for the team faces a possible public vote next year.” Arena critic Craig Powell said, “Let’s not kid ourselves. This is not disinterested charitable giving. These are tactical donations meant to improve their political position in the community.” Nonprofit leaders indicated they are "hopeful the new Kings ownership group will help fill a much-needed void” in a city that "lacks Fortune 500 companies and has a relatively small roster of ultra-wealthy families." Sacramento Region Community Foundation Marketing Dir Shirlee Tully said that the Kings “have not donated to the regional foundation, but that the organization ‘would absolutely work with them’ to support causes with the greatest need, including senior care, environmental work and arts groups.” Lillis notes in contrast to the previous owners, Ranadive’s group has “engaged significantly with the city’s main arts organizations” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 12/26).
The “upheaval continues” for Chivas USA, as the organization on Monday “fired” Sporting President Dennis te Kloese, who served in the position for both the MLS club and its Liga MX sister club Chivas de Guadalajara, according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. Chivas USA since September “has not only gotten rid of many of the players it finished last season with, but mercurial owner Jorge Vergara has also sacked” Dir of Soccer Juan Francisco Palencia, coach Jose Luis Real and President Jose David. That all this is “taking place in the middle of Chivas USA's off-season ticket sales push should be embarrassing for the team and the league, which has continued to back Vergara despite the fact he has turned the team into the most dysfunctional franchise in major U.S. professional sports.” This “should be of concern to the league and Commissioner Don Garber.” At a time “when Garber can point to expansion, a leaguewide attendance average that tops figures for both the NBA and NHL and the highest level of play in MLS history, the league's continued growth remains stunted by a poorly run team in its second-largest market.” Selling Chivas USA and “relocating the team ... would both save the franchise and bolster the league.” Unless Vergara “can right the ship quickly,” MLS owners “may soon have to push the reluctant Garber into action” (LATIMES.com, 12/24).
PAYDAY LOAN: In Seattle, Joshua Mayers noted the MLS Sounders “in an expected move” loaned F Clint Dempsey to EPL club Fulham. The loan “will last two months, so Dempsey is expected back for Seattle’s season opener March 8.” The 30-year-old Dempsey “could play as many as eight league games” for Fulham (SEATTLETIMES.com, 12/24).