At a press conference last Thursday, the new owner of the Arizona Coyotes, successful businessman Alex Meruelo, made it clear what his intentions were. When asked if he wants to win, his remark was notable, “I sure as (expletive deleted) want to win.” Now that’s a Coyotes new ownership vow!
Coyotes CEO Ahron Cohen along with former majority owner Andrew Barroway met with Meruelo in Los Angeles this spring. They noticed Meruelo’s drive and passion. Even at that early stage of discussions Cohen was impressed by Meruelo’s plans to improve the organization. He also noticed his intention to attempt to reach out to the Hispanic community.
Coyotes New Ownership Vow For Success
It must be noted here that when the now minority owner Barroway became majority owner all kinds of promises to improve the product on the ice (better known as players) were also being made. This writer attended a town hall where Barroway made such promises. They turned out to be just that… promises.
Yet, Meruelo seems to be much more aggressive in his promises. He stated as such to Arizona Sports 98.7 FM writer Matt Layman. “My goal here with the rest of the team, the executives, the players, the coaches–I will not stop until we bring a Stanley Cup to the Valley. That is my goal, my commitment and hopefully my promise to keep to all of you guys.”
One executive glad to hear that is the general manager John Chayka. Chayka mentioned to Layman, “I think if you look at his resume, he’s always invested in his businesses. Now, he runs it like a business. He refers to it as ‘smart money’ and he and I are on the same page with that. I think if you’re trying to accomplish a goal of winning a Stanley cup, you have to be very thoughtful about things. He’s not going to come in and be wasteful.”
Meruelo committed to Keeping the Team in Arizona
We heard this from Barroway too. Unless and until Meruelo can secure a new arena in the East Valley where the majority of the team’s fan base exists, he may be challenged on that promise. Meruelo realizes the situation at Gila River Arena is a temporary one with a year-to-year lease agreement in place. He also knows the necessary corporate sponsors are not in the West Valley and that is a challenge.
The Coyotes new owner has stated that he is committed (there’s that word again…) to making it work whether it be here or someplace else in the Valley.
Meruelo’s background and experience in turning around businesses is documented. He did after all purchase a failing pizza restaurant and transformed it into a $10 million success. Does that encourage thoughts of him being able to get a new arena built? He has some expertise in construction as he has renovated a casino he purchased in Las Vegas.
With Meruelo’s purchase of the team, rumours of the team relocating to Houston have been squelched like a summer monsoon storm on a hot Phoenix day. While Meruelo’s optimism is something welcomed, he will need to prove himself to the fans who have supported this team over the years. They’ve seen this all before. They will remain skeptical until something concrete like a new arena being built happens. Work still remains to secure their confidence in a new owner.
Adding Phil Kessel Will Allow This Franchise to Move Forward
Already, while Meruelo’s purchase of the team was being processed and approved by the NHL, Chayka was able to add a star forward when he acquired Phil Kessel for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Oliver Joseph. This gives the team a proven scorer who wanted to come to Arizona and play for head coach Rick Tocchet.
The team was sorely lacking in scoring and Kessel is expected to help significantly in that weakness. It should allow the team to get over the hump of not playing in the post season since 2012. Kessel adds stability. He hasn’t missed a game in nine seasons. His additional scoring (82 points last season) and leadership to the younger players will be a definite upgrade.
So, perhaps the Coyotes new ownership saw a failing team and decided he can come in and turn things around. The team is just under $200,000 below the salary cap. In years past they struggled to exceed the salary cap basement. With Meruelo’s resources, Chayka’s crafty dealings, along with Cohen’s leadership things may just turn around for a franchise which has not experienced much to celebrate over the years.
Hope seems eternal in the desert.