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Coyotes Owner Walks Away From Dormant Team After Land Auction Canceled

  • The future of the NHL in Arizona is now uncertain.
  • Meruelo needed to have an arena underway by late 2027 to reactivate the Coyotes franchise.
Thomas Hawthorne/The Republic

He’s taking his puck and going home. 

Alex Meruelo is giving up on reactivating the Coyotes as an NHL franchise, news that was relayed by his son, Alex Meruelo Jr., to the roughly dozen workers still employed by the team Monday, a source with knowledge of the meeting confirmed to Front Office Sports. 

A Coyotes spokesperson declined comment on the team abandoning its effort to revive the franchise, which was first reported by PHNX Sports early Tuesday morning.

The NHL nudged Meruelo to sell the team—ultimately to Utah billionaire Ryan Smith—after the Coyotes languished in 4,600-seat Mullett Arena in Tempe for the last three seasons.

The sale included the provision that Meruelo had exclusive, nontransferable rights to reactivate the franchise if he was able to build an arena for the team within five years. That always looked like a long shot; after all, Meruelo was unable to build an NHL arena while he actually owned the team.

But the cancellation of a land auction last week may have been the death knell for Meruelo’s time as an NHL owner.

Friday, the Arizona State Land Department canceled an auction for land in north Phoenix that Meruelo hoped to purchase and use for an arena. The land department said that he had not received a permit to build land on the arena.

The Coyotes—no longer an NHL team, but a brand still controlled by Meruelo—said Friday, “This unprecedented action by the State of Arizona seriously jeopardizes the future of NHL hockey returning to the desert.”

Former Coyotes communication executive Rich Nairn wrote Friday, “Hopefully, he will finally bow out so that the NHL can begin discussions with other real potential owners.”

Meruelo appears to have bowed out. What happens next with professional hockey in Arizona is unclear.

This is a developing news story and will be updated.

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