Arizona Coyotes dispute report owner Alex Meruelo is seeking sale of franchise

Photo credit:Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
The neverending saga that is the Arizona Coyotes continued on Thursday when news surfaced that owner Alex Meruelo “has spoken to multiple potential buyers… to gauge their interest in purchasing the NHL franchise,” Arizona Sports’ John Gambardoro reported.
Meruelo, who purchased the majority ownership of the Coyotes in 2019, reportedly met with commissioner Gary Bettman about the future of the team, according to Gambardoro, who added the owner was seeking “upward of $1-billion” for the team.
The report comes with the Coyotes’ future murky, with Meruelo hoping to purchase state land at an auction that could take place in June.
But the Coyotes rebutted the report, saying, “Mr. Meruelo and the team are solely focused on the land auction and winning the bid. And to keep the Coyotes in Arizona.”
Last December, the Coyotes were valued by Forbes at $500-million — well off of the reported asking price for the team. But potential owners are beginning to circle the league in hopes of getting their hands on an NHL franchise.
At the forefront of such discussions is Ryan Smith, owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, who is looking to bring an NHL club to Salt Lake City, Utah. A potential NHL team would play out of the city’s Delta Center, the current home of the Jazz, with Smith wanting to build a new arena to house both franchises.
It would coincide with Salt Lake City vying to be a host city for the 2030 Winter Olympics.
“SEG (Smith Entertainment Group) envisions a near future where the NHL will thrive in Utah, and we are 100 percent focused on making this happen as soon as possible,” said Smith in January. “We are passionate about sports and entertainment in the state and are committed to providing premium sports and entertainment experiences for the people of Utah and visitors from around the world.
“We are ready to welcome the NHL and are confident that the time and attention being spent by all parties will bring one of the most exciting and dynamic leagues in the world to our community on a permanent basis.”
In February, NHLPA president Marty Walsh expressed concern about the Coyotes’ current situation, which involves them playing at Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena, which has 4,600 seats.
“I have serious concerns about Arizona,” said Walsh Friday during a media availability at the NHL All-Star game. “I’m extremely disappointed with the ownership of Arizona, with the president of Arizona (Xavier Gutierrez). They have not reached out to the NHLPA and talk to us about what the situation in Arizona is.
“You can buy a piece of land. How long will it take you to permit the land? Do you need a referendum? Is there hazardous waste, do you need to remediate the land? So you can talk about buying land in Arizona and it can be 10 years before a shovel goes in the ground.
“How long do you wait to get a home? They’re playing in a college arena and they’re the second tenant in that arena. This is not the way to run a business.”
The Coyotes’ current deal with the university runs through the 2024-25 season.
Once a member of the same Pacific Division the Oilers play out of, the Coyotes have moved to the Central Division ahead of the 2021-22 season. With Salt Lake City a straight shot 12 hours north of Tuscon, where the University of Arizona is, it’s reasonable to assume a potential move of the franchise — should that be the outcome — would have Smith’s team playing out of the same division.
That could always change, however, as it’s not unreasonable to think the league could look to open the expansion process up once again, given the success of the Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s two most recent franchises.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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