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End of torment? NHL’s most disgruntled team could move before the end of the month

Date: May 22, 2024 Time: 12:13:27

It is the last week of the regular season in the NHL, the last tickets for the playoffs are being played: those who lost their chances of getting them have been experimenting with their squad for a long time and have disappeared from the news headlines. However, right now the most talked about team in the NHL is Arizona. The fact that the team could change residences has been discussed for several years, but rumors about the move have intensified considerably in recent days; now experts report that the probability of the team moving to Salt Lake City is 90-95%.

What about the playoff battle?

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To understand everything that happened, let’s go back a year. After the 2021-22 season, the Coyotes were evicted from Glendale Stadium, where they were living on city property. The local city council and “Arizona” have long had something resembling a low-intensity dispute. Even then, the “coyotes” could have been left homeless, but they were rescued by a local state university, which lent its stadium: initially it was indicated that it had a capacity of 5,500 spectators, but in all protocols it costs 4,600. Mallett Arena and KHL regulations were not approved.

Fans of other clubs were already very dissatisfied. They found it difficult to imagine that any other NHL club could receive such leniency, especially in the context of how the league ignored Quebec’s possible return with a new 18,000-seat stadium. The club was planned to build a new stadium in Tempe, located 15 km from Phoenix, to return the team to its roots. However, even so, the “coyotes” stay in the tiny arena would have been delayed while the new place was being built.

Panorama of the Mallett Arena

Photo: AP/TASS

Everything went to hell from the first step. The Tempe City Council was unanimous in favor of the construction, but decided to put the issue to a referendum. The Coyotes and their owner Alex Meruelo planned to build not just a stadium, but an entire microdistrict that would include luxury homes, hotels, restaurants and shops. Furthermore, all this beauty would have appeared on the site of a natural landfill with a compost pit that, in the event of a fire, would bathe the local environment in fragrance. It seems, what could go wrong?

However, everything went wrong. Despite the fact that Gary Bettman personally participated in the “yes” campaign, an unprecedented case for the NHL, the organizers of the campaign did not spend much money on advertising. The “against” campaign was carried out by a heterogeneous coalition under the slogan “Tempe First.” The arguments against were clear: The city would inevitably have to raise taxes to build roads and infrastructure for the new stadium, although Alex Meruelo promised that everything would be paid for with private funds. The bad reputation of the owner (which will be analyzed later) and the fact that the local unions supported the opponents of the construction with dollars, since they would not have participated in the works, played a role.

According to the internal calculations of the construction promoters, the amendments should have been supported by 56-57% of voters, but exactly the same number rejected them. Turnout in the referendum was only 33%: approximately 16 thousand voters voted “against”, 12 thousand – “for”. An interesting fact: more than 43% of those who voted were over 65 years old, although it is unknown exactly how their votes were distributed. In any case, this vote put the team’s fate in jeopardy: there was no Plan B and Mallet Arena couldn’t magically grow three times in size.

“Arizona” quickly announced that it would find a new land nearby, the club’s social networks flaunted beautiful designs and videos with guarantees that the team would remain in the state. However, no real work was done. In February, Arizona received harsh criticism from Players Association head Marty Walsh. The former US Secretary of Labor repeatedly criticized the team in the press, saying in February: “How long will they wait to get their house? They play in a university stadium and are the second tenant in that stadium. “That’s not how business is done.” There were also words from anonymous NHL players calling the entire arena situation a “disgrace.”

The auction of Arizona’s new home field was set for late June, too late for a league that has been trying to release its schedule early. The Coyotes’ Plan C has already encountered local opposition, with Scottsdale’s mayor saying that “we do not welcome a first-time developer who wants to buy state land with no infrastructure around the corner.” This is inappropriate” and that no studies have been done. In general, the abscess was boiling and finally burst a day ago, when almost all major American journalists learned of the news.

The amazed fans learned many new things. Many were surprised by the fact that the Arizona players themselves were forced to independently follow the fate of the team on social networks? The club’s own management, nor the sports department, much less the owner or his representatives, supposedly did not discuss with the players and staff how the entire transfer was going. But these players with existing contracts aren’t going anywhere: administrative and financial staff likely won’t travel with the convoy to Utah and could, in theory, face layoffs in the coming days. It is difficult to call this a human attitude.

Alex Meruelo, owner of Arizona

Photo: Denise Truscello/Getty Images

However, there have long been doubts about Alex Meruelo regarding this attitude: the team owner was accused of creating a toxic atmosphere within the club. It was under him that Arizona got into a scandal with the deprivation of draft picks (although it was the fault of the sports block), was evicted from Glendale for banal debts. Debts were also discovered in connection with the hotels where the “coyotes” spent the entire season: in the end, the angry hoteliers presented a collective bill to the club.

In 2021, The Athletic journalist Katie Strang published an investigation into the life of the Meruelo club. According to him, the team was late in paying bonuses for signing several players in 2020 and did not pay travel expenses during the playoffs, as required by the collective bargaining agreement. This fit perfectly with the ethos of Meruelo’s core business, where the CFO was supposedly complaining about the high cost of… napkins. “They ran the NHL team like it was a pizza chain,” said a former Arizona employee who was laid off during the Covid era. All of this didn’t stop Bettman from saying that Meruelo was the best team owner in a long time.

The most surprising thing is that the NHL, after a possible sale of Arizona, will allow a person with such a good reputation to create a new expansion team in five years: even after numerous failed attempts, the league is still holding on to a market. which has clearly failed. And that’s not the strangest thing: expert David Pagnotta claims that the NHL plans to expand to 34 teams and, by 2030, to 36 teams. This in conditions where there clearly aren’t enough quality goalkeepers and defenders for 32 teams? What will be the level of the league then?

However, this is a topic for another article. I feel sorry for Arizona, if only because this year the team drew attention not only for scandals, but also for hockey. Clayton Keller has arguably become the most underrated player in the league, performing at a high level without the media attention. The third pick of the draft, Logan Cooley, fit well in the league, the Finn Matthias Macchelli stood out with his subtle passing and Connor Ingram, who was fighting psychological illnesses, restarted his career. By the new year, the “coyotes” were close to the playoff zone, during the season they consistently beat all the champions of recent years, but 14 defeats in a row ended all their chances of something good. It is significant that the time of the collapse coincided with the first news about Salt Lake.

Arizona leader Clayton Keller

Photo: AP/TASS

From a sporting point of view, the future of this center is not bad. The Coyotes (or whatever they’re called in Utah) have more than $40 million in cap space, and almost all of their forwards are already under contract. That money could be used to bolster the defense, either in free agency or via trades, as Arizona has a ton of draft picks that are unlikely to be used all at once. All it takes is an owner who invests money generously, and with this the always unprofitable Arizona had problems, so the club could not take a step forward.

A scary story from the club season:

“Every hockey player should be horrified.” An NHL player could have died due to lack of attendance

It is curious that even a new club in the league has the smallest stadium in the NHL: the Delta Center, where the Jazz currently play, can accommodate “only” 14 thousand spectators in a hockey configuration. However, Salt Lake City is scheduled to host the Olympic Games and a large new stadium is expected to be built for the event. Salt Lake, in terms of population, is far from Phoenix or old Houston, and there is no confidence that players will not flee from there, like from provincial Columbus. However, one thing can be said for sure: it will not be worse than in Arizona.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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