An owner in the National Hockey League has just made a series of comments that can only be interpreted as one thing, a very real threat of potential relocation to another city.
As many of you will already know the Arizona Coyotes were recently sold by majority owner Andrew Barrroway, who now remains a minority stakeholder with the organization, to billionaire entrepreneur Alex Meruelo. The move in and of itself did not draw all that many national headlines due to the fact that the Coyotes have restructured their ownership more times than most people can count over the years, but this time things are a little different. Meruelo is now the majority owner of the organization, controlling nearly all stakes in the company, and this will grant him tremendous power with how the struggling franchise will now move forward in the hopes of becoming a competitive organization in the National Hockey League, both on the ice and financially.
For years now the threat of a possible relocation for the Coyotes has loomed over the heads of their fans like the proverbial Sword of Damocles, but with the sale of the team to Meruelo that threat seems more real than ever. After purchasing the team the new owner spoke to members of the media and he was asked about the long term viability of the franchise at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona and it would be fair to suggest that his answers were not promoting for the city of Glendale.
According to a recent report from Jen Fifield of the Arizona Republic, Meruelo made statements suggesting that he was committed to keeping the Coyotes in Arizona, but made no such statements about a commitment to keeping them in the city of Glendale. Instead Meruelo described a long term commitment to Glendale as "a difficult situation," citing many of the same problems that others have when describing the Coyotes struggles over the years. Fans of the team are primarily located in the East Valley while Glendale is located in the West Valley, the team has no long term lease with the city of Glendale and they are unable to attract corporate sponsorships as a result of their low attendance.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has made it clear that he feels that Glendale "is not viable long-term," and it seems very likely that Meruelo shares the same sentiments his commissioner does. The relationship between the NHL and the city of Glendale has taken a huge hit in recent years and it would take a small miracle for city officials to find a way to convince Meruelo that it is in his best interest to remain in Gila River Arena long term.