The Arizona Coyotes’ future in the state is in jeopardy. If the rumours are true we can expect an announcement this week about the Coyotes’ move to Salt Lake City/Utah. The NHL has given the franchise every opportunity to be successful in the desert. We have seen the success of the franchise being in the desert with the biggest examples being players like Auston Matthews and Matthew Knies. However, the uncertainty of arenas and the lack of team success since 2012 are the factors in moving this team. It may not be the end of the NHL in Arizona, but it is a much-needed break. If a team is brought back there has to be a better plan. With it looking like this is the end, let’s look back at the curious case of the Coyotes.


Since the Coyotes moved from Winnipeg, there has been a several owners. It started with Richard Burke and Steve Gluckstern who had to settle for the desert after originally wanting to move the Jets to Minnesota. Three years after Burke bought out Gluckstern, he sold the franchise to Steve Ellman and Wayne Gretzky. Five years after Ellman bought the team he sold it to Jerry Moyes who is regarded as the worst owner in franchise history. He tried to immediately sell the team and put them into bankruptcy after three years. The NHL even had to step in to try and find better ownership. This led them to IceArizona, Andrew Barroway, and now finally Alex Meruelo. The Coyotes had their most successful run in the years the NHL controlled the team.


With the many owners also came arena uncertainty and several proposed ideas that have been shot down. The original home, America West Arena, was built for the Phoenix Suns.. It was the Coyotes’ home until December 2003. The next step was Glendale Arena which became Arena, Gila River Arena, and now Desert Diamond Arena. The Coyotes spent almost 20 years in that arena surrounded by ownership uncertainty. Which leads to the final move to Mullett Arena. The 5,000-seat venue was made originally for the Arizona State hockey team, but allowed the Coyotes to join the project. The Coyotes were locked out of the Gila River Arena after not paying $1.3 million in taxes. Failed projects in Tempe, Mesa, Northern Phoenix, and Scottsdale have given the NHL no choice but to move on.

Success Stories

Despite the negativity surrounding this franchise, not all of it has been bad. Having players like Matthews and Knies credit going to Coyotes’ games as kids for being in the NHL is nothing to scoff at. The glorious run of the 2012 squad to the Western Conference Finals losing to the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings. Legends like Shane Doan, Jeremy Roenick and Nikolai Khabibulin being parts of the franchise are credible despite being around for just under 3 decades. In this new generation, Clayton Keller has had almost every opportunity to become a free agent or request a trade instead he has chosen to be a leader and an advocate for Arizona.


Almost 30 years of a franchise and a lot of question marks surrounding, is not a recipe for success as a legacy. Limited playoff success, a myriad of owners, the uncertainty of arenas, and a question of relocation for over a decade has haunted the Coyotes franchise. They will be remembered as a team that took on several contracts of players who would never play an NHL game again. Players like Shea Weber, Marian Hossa, and Pavel Datsyuk hold the distinction of being Arizona Coyotes players.

Possible Return

With Gary Bettman at the helm of the NHL, hockey in the state of Arizona will remain a possibility. Even as rumours swirl about the Coyotes’ potential move to Utah, a piece of it includes an option for Alex Meruelo to bring a team back to the desert. The team isn’t even gone yet and there’s already a replacement or expansion waiting. Sure it isn’t all bad, but what indication is there that this will work on the second try? Atlanta has gotten two tries and there is talks of a possible third try, but that is a major city in the United States. Winnipeg is on its second try, but they have found success on and off the ice.

We might hope the second time is the charm, but hockey desire in the desert may have dried up. Check out Area 51 Sports Network for all relocation and expansion updates.