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Truth may be relative in dispute between Coyotes, GM John Chayka

In this May 5, 2016, file photo, Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka speaks at a news conference in Glendale, Ariz. Chayka has stepped down, one week before the Coyotes open the Stanley Cup qualifiers against Nashville. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

The Arizona Coyotes have been in the Valley for 24 years. We might all go 24 more before we see another major professional sports team call its general manager a quitter in a public statement with the team’s letterhead on it.

“John Chayka has quit” the statement said, later reiterating “Chayka has chosen to quit.” Elsewhere, sources spread the accusation that Chayka is a quitter and a liar. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t.

Reports said that Chayka was approached about a job opportunity elsewhere and convinced the owner to let him explore it for the sake of building relationships. That reportedly resulted in him getting “an offer he couldn’t refuse,” and he tried to exit the organization several weeks ago. Owner Alex Meruelo felt lied to.

The Coyotes are characterizing the situation as Chayka just quitting on his team when they’re about to start the playoffs. That’s one side of the story.

We don’t have all the facts. Did Chayka intend from the get-go to try to get this new job elsewhere? Or did it start as an innocent conversation and quickly develop into a legitimate job opportunity that Chayka couldn’t pass up? That should be the fulcrum point in choosing whose side to take.

As for the money, the league may have to step in and decide. That could come down to exactly what this other job was and whether it violated the language in Chayka’s contract.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that he was loyal to the Coyotes, loved Arizona and wanted to see his roster win a Stanley Cup some day. He kicked the tires in a conversation with some other company or team, and then when he got offered the Moon, his intentions changed and he wanted to take it. We don’t know if that’s what happened, but we don’t know that it didn’t.

As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Monday, Chayka was approached about this job opportunity long before it was even clear that there would be a conclusion to the 2019-20 season.

Are the Coyotes dragging Chayka through the mud over a misunderstanding? Or did Chayka lie to Meruelo?

We might never know the honest answer to that question. The truth here is buried behind secrecy, hurt feelings, differing perspectives and anonymous sources. It is the opinion of this writer that Chayka lying to the team and being intentionally deceitful while trying to exit the organization seems unlikely. For someone whose brand is being calculated and analytical, it’s hard to imagine the young executive impulsively seeking an exit from the team that took a chance on him and that he’s invested so much work in.

But someone here is being unreasonable, whether it be the Coyotes for publicly attacking their departed GM, or be it Chayka, for ditching the team that was relying on him.


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