The Arizona Coyotes have a slim chance of coming back, but it’s a long shot

With the Arizona Coyotes relatively quick relocation to Utah, the hockey door appears closed in the Phoenix metro area—or is it? There’s a slim chance hockey will return, albeit it’s a long shot.
NHL Global Series - Arizona Coyotes v Los Angeles Kings
NHL Global Series - Arizona Coyotes v Los Angeles Kings / Josh Chadwick/GettyImages

Contracts and legal issues dictate professional sports.

Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo did what he could to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. The league’s patience grew thin, and once the Tempa, AZ vote failed to pave the way for a new arena, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s hands were tied, and an immediate relocation was justified.

Bettman could not allow NHL hockey to continue at the Arizona State Mullett Arena, which seated around 4,600 people.

The truth is, hockey stayed in Arizona longer than it probably should have. The Arizona fanbase has been weak and consistently ranked as one of the NHL’s least-performing or sell-out markets.

Is there a chance NHL hockey could return to Arizona?

Yes, but a slim chance. It’s all up to Meruelo. First, Meruelo was depending on an upcoming land auction in Phoenix that he planned to attempt to win as the highest bidder. Again, Bettman and the NHL’s patience grew thin, and they had to do what was best for the league.

However, the fine print states that Meruelo has until 2029 to acquire proper accommodations for a league arena and is expected to pay a hefty sum of around $1 billion in an expansion entrance fee.

By all accounts, the Arizona Coyotes are not yet disbanded and can easily be revived if Meruelo jumps through the hoops set before him.

Don’t expect a return

The Arizona Coyotes had some exciting years. They were briefly coached by Wayne Gretzky and partially owned by the Great One.

They welcomed talented players such as Jeremy Roenick, and Keith Tkachuk, but they could never figure out how to win.

Moving to the desert in 1996, the Coyotes only made one division championship. This is pretty alarming.

Many transplants and even hockey legends have made Phoenix their home, attracted by the sought-after weather.

Whether it was the shame of losing or the far drive to Glendale from 2003 to 2022, the Phoenix area failed in its hockey endeavors.

The best thing it produced was its NHL youth leagues, which helped introduce and form the great Auston Matthews.

While Meruelo has the potential to make a comeback in the league by 2029 through hard work, there are other cities that also deserve a team and have the potential to flourish. Dare we say the Quebec Nordiques should return? Or what about teams in winter climates dying for hockey, like Milwaukee? Sports thrive in Kansas City and deserve another shot before Arizona.

Hockey never died in Arizona; it was never born. The league needs to move on. One desert team is enough in Vegas, and the Golden Knights have proven that the way to keep a fan base is to win, something the Coyotes just couldn’t figure out.