Canadian Sports Executives Head up Game-changing Initiatives

Three prominent Canadian sports executives were in the news this week for leading initiatives that could develop into lucrative partnerships and help establish significant legacies within their respective organizations.

Arizona Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc of Thunder Bay, ON, has reached an agreement with Arizona State University to develop a new sports complex east of Phoenix that would house a 16,000-seat NHL arena and a 4,000-seat multi-sport arena for ASU that would double as the Coyotes training facility. A secondary phase of the $400-million project would see construction of a new hotel and other related amenities.


LeBlanc and his partner Andrew Barroway appear to have found a path towards stabilizing the franchise following more than a decade of uncertainty and instability, owing in part to an untenable lease agreement at their current arena in Glendale.

With the emergence of California-born, Arizona-raised NHL superstar rookie Auston Matthews, and an increasing participation rate among youth in hockey year after year from the Greater Phoenix area, the time appears right for a bold new direction in the desert.

The team has until June 30, 2017 to finalize a budget, design and operational plan for the project.

The European Golf Tour’s Chief Executive Keith Pelley, of Toronto, has reached a multi-year deal with Swiss watchmaker Rolex to form a lucrative new alliance of its leading tournaments. The new Rolex Series will comprise a minimum of seven tournaments, each with a prize fund of at least $7M.


The Rolex series will benefit from enhanced TV and digital production, as well as increased hours of coverage distributed worldwide. The hope is that the incentive of greater prize money will help persuade high profile names like Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson to continue to compete on the European Tour and not play exclusively on the PGA Tour.

More established European golfers will continue to play a select number of tournaments on the PGA Tour but players rising through the ranks and trying to make a name for themselves on the European Tour will welcome the significantly greater prize pool at stake through the new series.

The Rolex series begins in May with the PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in England and is expected to wind down in November with the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

And former Toronto FC VP of Business Operations Paul Beirne, of Toronto, has been named project manager for the proposed new Canadian Premier soccer league, which plans to kick off in 2018.


The new professional league hopes to fill a void that will encourage young Canadian players to stay at home rather than seek opportunities in far-flung countries abroad. It is expected that ownership in some Canadian cities will have either full or partial connections to existing CFL teams.

A minimum of six teams will start play in 2018 with at least four others expected to come on board either in the inaugural year or in 2019. Beirne confirmed the new league would operate with a salary cap and enforce a quota system that would ensure Canadian players have significant opportunities.

The proposed league, which will be sanctioned and, in part, funded by Canada Soccer, would be the first attempt at forming a national professional league since the CSL folded in 1992.


In their respective sports organizations, Canadians LeBlanc, Pelley and Beirne are demonstrating leadership in brand building and business development.

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