The NHL announced today that the Arizona Coyotes franchise has now formally changed hands. Alex Meruelo has purchased a majority share in the team from Andrew Barroway, though Barroway will retain a minority stake. This sale was reported much earlier this offseason, but is now official.
The Coyotes have a long and varied history of ownership, including former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo, Wayne Gretzky and the NHL themselves at different times. Barroway purchased a majority stake in the team in 2014 after a failing bid to get into ownership with the New York Islanders. He bought out the remaining investors in 2017, a move that was quickly followed by a change in leadership for the team, with Gary Drummond and Dave Tippett both leaving the organization entirely. There were also some hard on-ice decisions made, including leaving Shane Doan unsigned and trading Mike Smith to the Calgary Flames.
In 2017 there was also a real push from the league to find a way to move Arizona to a new arena, as commissioner Gary Bettman penned a letter explaining to legislators that “the Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.” The battle for a move out of Glendale will now fall to the new ownership.
Obviously, this transfer of ownership will also bring up the long standing issue of franchise relocation. Not just finding a new arena for the Coyotes in Phoenix, but the chance that the team could move to another city and state entirely. With the announcement that the team will be moving into the Central Division once the Seattle expansion franchise is operational, many had speculated on a potential move to Houston. When the NBA’s Houston Rockets were sold to Tilman Fertitta in October of 2017, he immediately expressed interest in bringing the NHL to the city.
The NHL however, for all the strong language about not remaining in Glendale, has always strongly supported the Coyotes staying in the Arizona market. Relocation is a last resort for the league—and currently off the table. Hopefully new ownership will be able to finally find some financial and organizational stability for the franchise.