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This great meritocracy of ours

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[Photo by author, 4/14/24]

The Arizona Coyotes have played the last two years in an arena on the ASU campus with a seating capacity of 4,600 because Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo was such a toxic deadbeat that the city of Glendale decided it would prefer its arena to lose its anchor tenant than do business with him:

Over the last 26 seasons, the Arizona Coyotes have at times been bankrupt, ownerless, a ward of the N.H.L., the subject of relocation rumors, and, more recently, in a prickly relationship with the owners of their home arena. The team has long struggled to draw fans to its suburban rink, and it has never contended for the Stanley Cup, despite putting Wayne Gretzky, hockey’s “GOAT,” behind the bench for four seasons.

This month, the Coyotes may have reached a nadir. Glendale, Ariz., threatened to lock the team out of Gila River Arena in the middle of its season because Alex Meruelo, the team owner, owed $1.3 million in unpaid state and city taxes and arena operating costs from last season.

The City of Glendale, which was owed about $250,000 in taxes, had told Xavier Gutierrez, the Coyotes’ chief executive and president, that it would cancel the team’s business license if the total amount was not paid by Dec. 20.

Ahead of the deadline, but not before the Arizona Department of Revenue put a tax lien against the Coyotes’ parent company, IceArizona Hockey L.L.C., Meruelo paid $1.3 million to state officials and ASM Global, the company that manages Gila River Arena for the city.

On Dec. 9, the morning after the Coyotes received a letter from the city manager Kevin Phelps, the team released a statement blaming the unpaid bills on “human error.”

However, the N.H.L.’s most persistent headache and, at $400 million, the least valuable of its 32 franchises, faces even bigger problems. The Coyotes will be without a home at the end of this season with no alternative in sight.

Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, has made it clear since August that it is tired of wrangling over unpaid bills. Phelps says the relationship between the team and the city is over when its lease expires on June 30, 2022.

The organization under Meruelo also toxic work environment in many other ways, and they lost a 1st round draft pick by violating prospect conduct rules. They literally left the retirement banner of the best player in franchise history in a dumpster.

It was confirmed today that the Coyotes will be moving to Salt Lake City, and Meruelo’s punishment is…a massive financial windfall:

After two seasons of uncertainty in location limbo, the Arizona Coyotes are officially relocating to Salt Lake City, Utah.

The NHL announced the move Thursday, following an emotional final game at Mullett Arena on Wednesday night.

The move, which has been an open secret for a week, was officially approved by the NHL Board of Governors after a vote on Thursday afternoon.

“The NHL’s belief in Arizona has never wavered,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “We thank Alex Meruelo for his commitment to the franchise and Arizona, and we fully support his ongoing efforts to secure a new home in the desert for the Coyotes. We also want to acknowledge the loyal hockey fans of Arizona who have supported their team with dedication for nearly three decades while growing the game.”

The team will be purchased by Ryan and Ashley Smith in a $1.2-billion deal brokered by the league. The Smiths are owners of Smith Entertainment Group, whose portfolio includes the NBA’s Utah Jazz and MLS’s Real Salt Lake.

A billion of that sale price goes to Meruelo, who bought the team for $425 million 5 years ago. And he retains the right to the franchise for 5 years. Ka-ching! Now that is how to fail upward. Meruelo was not in attendance for the last game current Coyotes history yesterday.

Anybody who favors owners over players in collective bargaining negotiations is a massive stooge.

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