GLENDALE - George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc fulfilled every Canadian boy's dream last week by becoming NHL owners.
But before they had even completed the deal to buy the Phoenix Coyotes from the league, Gosbee, LeBlanc and their partners were already in the crosshairs.
The issue was the five-year out clause they put in an arena lease agreement with the city of Glendale.
On one hand, they understood the consternation; Coyotes fans had gone through an emotional roller coaster in four years of waiting for an owner.
What bothered the members of IceArizona was that they had no intention of moving the team. That would mean they had lost $50 million in their new venture and had failed, something none of them have had much experience with.
"It's frustrating for me because for this exit clause to kick in, we have to lose $50 million and that's not something I want to do," Gosbee said. "We came into this to build a successful organization in Phoenix and that's our plan. We have no plans of relocating anywhere else and we have no plans to lose $50 million, I can tell you that."
For LeBlanc, buying the Coyotes completed an arduous quest that lasted more than four years.
He started his career as a salesman for a regional cellphone company in New Brunswick and later joined Research in Motion just as it was developing the Blackberry. LeBlanc worked his way up through the ranks in eight years with the company, becoming a marketing executive before leaving in 2008 to pursue his dream of owning a hockey team.
He started Ice Edge Holdings with a goal of bringing a major junior or minor-league team to Thunder Bay, Ontario, where his family moved when he was 10.
After former Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in 2009, LeBlanc shifted his focus toward the Valley of the Sun.
His initial effort, with partner Daryl Jones, fell through, as did a minority ownership with Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer. LeBlanc also was working with former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison in his attempt to buy the team.
When Jamison's bid fell through in January, LeBlanc decided to take one more crack at buying the Coyotes.
This time, he and Jones brought in Gosbee, a Calgary businessman whose specialty was completing complicated financial transactions.
"If George didn't get involved, we wouldn't have bought this team, it's as simple as that," LeBlanc said.
Gosbee made his mark professionally in energy investment banking, handling mergers and acquisitions for numerous companies. Once he became a part of the group trying to buy the Coyotes, Gosbee put his background to perfect use, bringing in what had been lacking in previous deals: investors with hard cash to spend.
Gosbee's ability to close the deal earned him the moniker the Great Gosbee.
"We had a good partnership and were able to put all the missing pieces together," Gosbee said.