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New Coyotes CEO wants more Phoenix-area business partnerships; mum on arena deal

Ahron Cohen spoke with the Phoenix Business Journal this week and laid out his plans for how the team can overcome some of its difficulties and win favor with the local ban base, including the business community.

Your predecessor, Steve Patterson, was only in the position for a year. How did you end up as CEO? It really takes a special, unique leader to steady the ship during the change, and [Patterson] did just that. But he had things going on and it was just a collective decision to streamline our process and how we do things. Certainly it was a natural transition, and I’m excited to help us take the next step. I think where we are at now, we’ve really turned the corner as an organization and we’ve really changed the perception of the team in this market. And I’m here to help us move forward each and every day.

What is that next step? We are really fortunate as an organization where John Chayka, Andy Barroway and I really share a collective vision of what we are trying to accomplish here. It’s really three key things: We are trying to grow hockey fandom in the Valley, develop a competitive team and positively enrich our community. Everything we do, organizationally, from top-to-bottom, is focused on achieving those three goals.

Do we know where the Coyotes will be playing in the coming years? We’re still focused on achieving our long-term arena solution here in Arizona. But if we accomplish those three goals I mentioned, everything takes care of itself. The long-term arena answers will come when we have something to report, but for the time being, we’ll just focus on achieving our core goals.

How are you going to grow the Coyotes’ fan base? We want to grow a competitive team. We are completely focused on that objective. One way to achieve that goal is by making smart decisions and evaluating everything through an analytical framework. We have an outstanding general manager and coach and just getting Grade A people and making smart decisions is how we build a competitive team.

We have to be cool, we have to engage and be relevant to this marketplace. This is a large metro area with a lot of different things going on, so we have to constantly find ways to be relevant. We have to demonstrate our commitment to this community.

Us committing to things like making capital investments here, building out our staff or donating to this community is very important. We have to be interconnected to the fabric of this community, in terms of knowing the right business leaders and developing relationships with great local brands. That is something that is incredibly important to us.

We have to be courageous. We have to know who we are, and we have to make tough decisions. It might not always be the most popular or the most cost effective, but there are things we believe in and we have to be prepared to be courageous to take those stands when necessary.

Why is it important to engage with the community? I’ve done a lot of work studying successful sports models and seeing how they achieve a lot of local success. The best model is when teams really make themselves an integral part of that community. That is something we are focused on doing here. That is something I’m trying to ingrain into our staff. Everything we do, we should be looking at this through the lens of how can we more effectively, positively enrich this community.

How do you see the Coyotes improving or increasing relationships with the business community? It’s really sharing our story and who we are and making sure people are aware of that. And by developing positive alliances where we’re collectively trying to promote this community and this Valley. I think a lot of great companies similarly share those beliefs that they want to be an integral part of the community, and we really like partnering with businesses that same mindset.

Also, just developing relationships with local brands. Whether it’s a sponsorship, whether it’s a joint marketing effort or whether it’s joint community engagement or community donations, just really making sure we are aligning with local businesses does nothing but help us moving forward.

You are in your mid-30s. You have to be one of the younger front office leaders in the NHL. How does that benefit you? I think I’m the youngest CEO of a team in the NHL. I’m certainly appreciative of our owner for having the faith in me and the other people in our company believing in me. Our GM is the youngest GM in the history of pro sports. I think what we are trying to build here is something different than other sports teams. We are trying to be fun and innovative and push the envelope on some things and do things the right way.  Courtesy of Arizona Coyotes daily press notes and Brandon Brown Phoenix Business Journal. Photo courtesy of abc15.com