Does Anyone In Arizona Want The Coyotes?
10:57 AM EST on February 8, 2024
A day ago, we dragged you against your will through the gravel-and-ground-glass pudding vat that is the Oakland Athletics' search for a home. We apologize for that because that's a story that can be written any day by anyone.
Which brings us to our Hold My Beer segment, featuring the Arizona Coyotes, or as they are more accurately described, the A's with a better mascot.
The Coyotes have been their own Mardi Gras of inertia since the moment they left Winnipeg 28 years ago. They have played in three arenas in three different cities in the Phoenix Area without ever finding a home they can get someone else to give them, and in fact were only placed there because the original owners couldn't get a lease to play in St. Paul, Minnesota. They have been owned by seven different groups, eight if you count the league itself, and are perpetually teetering on the edge of Somewhere Else, and would probably be there already if Gary Bettman didn't see things in the market nobody else can find.
Fast forward to now, or as we know it, DDSS: Different Day, Same Stupid. The Coyotes under their latest management led by billionaire entrepreneur Alex Meruelo have made no headway trying to find a place better than the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena on the Arizona State campus, blown through two deadlines to present an arena plan to the NHL, and the whispers have resumed that they are about to either be sold, sold and moved, or just abandoned like a frat house couch. Even Bettman, who has staked what passes for a reputation on this team making it in the Valley, has recalibrated his rhetoric from bullish to this Jenga tower of equivocation over the all-star weekend:
“Alex Meruelo told me as recently as last week that he was certain he was going to get this [finding a site for a new arena, not an actual arena plan] done. I don’t make it a practice of contradicting owners unless I have hard facts to the contrary. I’m both hopeful and … reasonably confident that he’s going to do what he says.”
This tepid response inspired the few people still interested in how this ends up to declare that the Coyotes experiment was under hospice care, with Salt Lake City the likeliest new destination. Even Elliotte Friedman, who gets people in the league to whisper to him without Shams's syntactical thickets, laid out a fairly dire path for the franchise.
This caused the team to arise from its institutional torpor to issue a response on Elon Musk's Temple To Sociopathy that was no response at all, given that even a cockeyed capitalist optimist like Jim Cramer could never find a reason to be bullish on this operation. Unless the social media department at Coyotes.com is negotiating the arena deal, this was just one more way of saying, "We got nothin'.”
I mean, even the A's have kind of a deal, even though they also haven't done anything except contribute to some Las Vegas politicians to get their votes in exchange for money they can't access until they come up with a plan for a plot of land that most experts think is still too small for a ballpark. The Coyotes don't even have that, and they've been looking for an arena since before John Fisher bought the A's.
The latest suggestion, that Meruelo and family could sell the team to Suns owner Mat Ishbia and put the team back in Phoenix, was apparently scotched by Ishbia himself. In fact, the only person other than Meruelo who seems to want the Coyotes is Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, who has already registered his interest in an NHL expansion team for Salt Lake City, and even said in a release that his company "has also made clear its immediate ability to welcome an NHL team to Utah, using Delta Center as an interim home arena for an NHL franchise.” Since SLC is bidding on the 2034 Winter Olympics, a new hockey arena would be part of the scam.
How the Great Salt Lake became the hot new location suggests either that Utah is a quietly hopping place or the sports bubble is about to burst and Salt Lake City is the last to know. The idea that this inoffensive metropolis could be the future home of the two least competent franchise operations in North America (and the Jazz) suggests that its residents must have done something genuinely heinous.
That may be the real takeaway here: When you're eager to have not one but two things nobody else wants, that could be taken as a sign that you might be the corpse and not the vulture.