The never-ending saga surrounding the Arizona Coyotes could finally see its final chapter in the coming days, and contrary to what Commissioner Gary Bettman keeps mentioning, a move is anything but utopian.
According to journalist Frank Seravalli of the website Daily Faceoff, a decision regarding the Coyotes could come this weekend. According to him, citing National Hockey League sources, there are still three options on the table, one of which includes a move to Salt Lake City.
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Keep in mind that the Coyotes still don't have a long-term home and are currently playing temporarily at Mullett Arena, a 4,600-seat amphitheater where the Arizona State University Sun Devils play.
An NHL strategy?
Why Salt Lake City, you say, when we've been talking about Houston, Atlanta or even Quebec for a long time?
Last week, Le Journal reported that the open letter from Smith Entertainment Group (SEG), led by Ryan Smith, a Utah businessman and owner of the NBA Jazz, received no attention. Surprise in the NHL, while rumors of expansion circulated closed circuit circles for a year.
However, this letter also provides evidence that leads us to believe that this could be a strategy initiated by the NHL to put pressure on the Arizona market.
This letter reminding you asked the NHL to begin an expansion process so that Salt Lake could obtain a franchise there. SEG also assured that it is ready to host an NHL team in the short term.
“[Smith Entertainment Group] has also made clear its immediate position to welcome an NHL team to Utah and use the Delta Center as a temporary home for an NHL franchise.”
The Delta Center, which serves as the Jazz's amphitheater, is not designed for the NHL but could serve as a temporary solution until Salt Lake City has an arena that meets NHL standards, according to Seravalli, who added that this project Part of this would be a bid by the city of Utah for the 2034 Olympics.
Pressure from all sides
The pressure on the Arizona Coyotes organization, which has a history of saving its skin, has perhaps never been greater.
First, Marty Walsh, executive director of the NHL Players' Association, criticized current Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo for being kicked out of the team's former home stadium, Gila River Arena in Glendale, for failing to pay his rent. Shortly thereafter, the Coyotes were defeated in a referendum aimed at approving a project to build an amphitheater as part of a complex estimated at $2 billion.
“I think the league feels Arizona is a good market, and I understand that,” Walsh said. The problem the players and I have is how long you have to wait for a home. They play in a college arena and are the second tenant of that arena. That’s not how you run a business.”
For his part, Gary Bettman tentatively expressed his confidence in Meruelo during a press conference on the sidelines of the NHL All-Star Game.
But what drew more attention was his eagerness to praise the qualities of Ryan Smith and his group when asked about the topic, comments that contradicted his habit when discussing markets where there were no active teams to remain discreet.
Can they stay in Arizona?
According to Brother Seravalli, if the option of a move seems real, there are two other options on the table that include the Coyotes remaining in Arizona.
The first is for Alex Meruelo, who remains the team's owner, and his group to find a place to build an amphitheater.
Last week, ABC15 announced that the Arizona Coyotes are moving forward with a plan to build an arena north of Phoenix and that multiple locations are being considered.
The second option would be for the team to be sold to another owner who would keep the team in the desert and have the financial means to purchase property themselves to build an amphitheater. Rumor has it that current owner of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, Mat Ishbia, may be interested in purchasing the Coyotes.
We've been saying it often for nearly 15 years, but this time it really seems to be one to midnight for the Coyotes.
Fifteen years of endless rumors
The Arizona Coyotes have been stoking rumors of a move for over 15 years, and the people of Quebec can attest to that. Despite everything, they continue to persevere. Here are the key dates in this never-ending saga.
July 1, 1996
The Winnipeg Jets move to Phoenix and become the Coyotes. Jerry Colangelo, Steven Gluckstern and Richard Burke are the shareholders.
After the team suffered numerous financial setbacks since his arrival, Jerry Moyes purchased the Coyotes. He becomes the team's fourth majority shareholder in nine years.
Jerry Moyes declares bankruptcy. He then negotiated without the NHL's approval with businessman Jim Balsillie, who wanted to move the team to Hamilton. Gary Bettman rejected the agreement and took the team under supervision in August 2009.
From 2010 to 2013
The NHL negotiates with many owners but each time cannot reach an agreement. Winnipeg Jets owner Mark Chipman even said a few years later that he was “ten minutes” away from seeing the Coyotes move to Manitoba in 2010.
2nd of July 2013
The Glendale City Council votes to award $15 million per year for 15 years to the group Renaissance Sports & Entertainment (RSE), which will officially own the Coyotes.
June 10, 2015
Two years after the agreement and after numerous setbacks and disagreements with the owners, the city of Glendale voted five to two to terminate the contract with the RSE Group. On July 23, IceArizona agreed to a two-year contract with the city.
July 29, 2019
Alex Meruelo becomes majority shareholder of the Coyotes and relaunches the idea of building an amphitheater in Tempe, a project that has been stalled since 2016.
December 8, 2021
Glendale is threatening to kick out the Coyotes if they don't pay their $1.3 million in tax debt. Meruelo is then criticized in a report by The Athletic that publicly exposes what it calls a toxic internal culture.
Facing expulsion from the city, the Coyotes say they have reached an agreement with Mullett Arena to play their local games there for three years while a new amphitheater is built.
May 16, 2023
The people of Tempe reject in a referendum the proposal for a project estimated at more than two billion dollars, which specifically aims to build an arena for the coyotes. The organization has been looking for a home ever since.