Coyotes Owner Releases Statement About How He Will Soon Release Statement

The Arizona Coyotes aren’t dead yet, but they’re going into stasis, and will pop back out fresh, new and more exciting than ever, as soon as the Greater Phoenix citizens get the hockey itch again and provide an arena, retail outlets, free land and infrastructure, including water.

In other words, the Arizona Coyotes are dead.

After a years-long leadup, this isn’t breaking news as much as informational erosion. Owner Alex Meruelo released a statement on Saturday promising a future statement on this cavalcade of civic failure, but there’s no real need. We know the story. He bought this often-owned but minimally operated team in 2019 at a distressed price, did nothing with it while occasionally skipping a few bills, and is now reportedly selling it back to the NHL for a profit. He’ll also retain the right to own the next team the NHL decides to put in Arizona, if he fulfills the mission of building a new arena.

But why would he bother getting back into the game? Meruelo tripled his investment on this boondoggle, and got nothing out of it except a series of no arenas, a damaged reputation with voters, and a promise that if anyone ever wants to give this another try, they’ll have to go through him.

And that’s the real takeaway here—I mean, other than Meruelo’s. He bought the most-owned team in NHL history (including several years when the league owned the team itself), and will be selling it back for a reported $1 billion, which he can use to get a new team, pending a proper arena. Commissioner Gary Bettman, who wants to own the Coyotes again like he wants gangrene, will reportedly sell the team to Utah Jazz owner and acquisition freak Ryan Smith at a suitable markup (either $1.2 billion or $1.3 billion, depending on reports). Almost everyone gets what they want: Meruelo makes money on the deal, the NHL makes money on the deal, Smith gets a new toy, and the people of Phoenix get peace and quiet. Whether or not Phoenix is a hockey market, it clearly can’t be Meruelo’s market.

Bettman is the only one who really loses in the deal, and all he’s losing is some face. He went to extraordinary and repeatedly failed efforts to maintain that Phoenix was a gold mine waiting for the right prospector, yet could never find a buyer for the team that had money, paid the bills faithfully, and didn’t become a civic pain in the ass. This seems like a low bar to clear, and yet it was never cleared; most of the owners never even had the first, and none had the second or third. It took Meruelo less than five years to give up, and yet he made sure to keep the hockey rights to the town that has told him repeatedly they’d much prefer the sport on TV. He’s ready to make a statement when there’s nothing left to say, to an audience that doesn’t want to hear it.

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