Arizona Rubber

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New Coyotes COO Segal seeking big turnaround in ’16-17


ari_segalWhile the American Hockey League (AHL) serves as a developmental league for the NHL, there was certainly nothing “minor league” about the San Diego Gulls in their inaugural AHL season in 2015-16.

The Gulls, under the leadership of president of business operations Ari Segal, finished their first season with the second best attendance average of 8,675 fans among the 30 AHL franchises.

Moreover, the Gulls were recognized at July’s AHL Excellence Awards with the award for business excellence after becoming one of the league’s leaders in season tickets and group ticket sales, thus setting a standard of excellence for other franchises new and old to strive for.

The hockey world took notice of the Gulls – and, specifically, Segal.

He enters the 2016-17 season as chief operating officer of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

It’s a big – and well-deserved — move up for the 2005 University of Virginia graduate.

Segal’s primary responsibilities as the COO of the Coyotes will be to oversee the front office and revenue generating functions of the NHL club (e.g., ticket sales, corporate partnerships, premium sales, marketing), the Coyotes’ new AHL club, the Tucson Roadrunners, and the Coyotes’ third-party partnerships.

Segal said his experience with the Gulls was critical in preparing him for his new position.

“It would be nearly impossible to overstate how important that experience was in preparing me for this new role and opportunity,” Segal explained. “On a very basic level, as the president of the club, I was exposed to every aspect of club operations at a very deep level — sales, marketing, public relations, communications, league governance, scheduling, etc.

“Also important, though, was that as a new franchise, we were building all of those functions from the ground up. There was, therefore, no playbook to build from — everything was a new build. This forced our team to educate itself about what was successful in our league, in our sport, in our market, in sports/entertainment generally, and even outside the sports industry, and to then try to cherry pick the best practices that we felt would be the right fit for our product and our market at that point in time, given the resources available.

“I wasn’t able to just incrementally make tweaks or changes or gradually layer on additional responsibilities to my job description or role; I really had to help research, design, create, and execute every aspect of club operations. That experience, I believe, was invaluable.”

Segal’s goals with the Coyotes are to win a Stanley Cup and be part of, in his words, “the greatest turnaround in professional sports in North America.”

“Think about where the Coyotes and Coyotes fans have been over the last few years – the team has experienced tremendous volatility in ownership, and was actually bankrupt at one point, and operated by the league,” he noted. “The team has had arena problems for years, driven largely by a difficult location and, more recently, serious problems with the city of Glendale. The team’s performance, both on and off the ice, has — given these difficult operating conditions — trended down.

“But consider, on the other hand, the opportunity. We’re in one of the biggest markets in the United States and the quality of life is unbelievable. Despite our struggles, we’ve got great, loyal fans who are just dying to see us come back. We’ve got a phenomenal pool of young prospects and we have a fantastic coach in Dave Tippett and GM John Chayka.

“As our arena situation and future in the Valley are solidified, we develop our prospects and attract high-quality free agents (like Alex Goligoski and Jamie McGinn this offseason), I firmly believe this organization is going to take off like a rocket ship.”

– Phillip Brents

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