ARIZONA COYOTES

Gutierrez: Coyotes focused on continued organizational turnaround

Feb 19, 2021, 9:42 AM
(Arizona Coyotes Photo)...
(Arizona Coyotes Photo)
(Arizona Coyotes Photo)

The Arizona Coyotes’ image took a gut punch earlier this week when The Athletic published an article centered around the organization’s financial misdealings and toxic environment.

While the team doesn’t agree whatsoever with the “mischaracterizations” of the article written by Katie Strang, president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez understands where the organization once was and where it needs to be moving forward.

“We recognize one thing and that is this is a turnaround,” Gutierrez told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Friday. “This is an organization that when [Coyotes owner] Alex Meruelo bought it a couple years ago … definitely needed to have an infusion of investment, a new commitment, a new vision and new people.

“Sometimes when you do a turnaround … a lot of things need to change. We’re going to come in here, we have a track record of success in these types of turnarounds in multiple industries, and we are building a financially stable organization today, tomorrow and into the future.”

The article, which highlights the team’s financial issues, looks back at the organization under Meruelo’s ownership through interviews from 50 current and former employees as well as those with business relationships with the team.

That includes eight vendors who told Strang the organization would haggle over portions of a contract or invoice items.

The Coyotes did not respond to Strang for comments on the article, but did issue a lengthy press release on Tuesday refuting the story.

“The biggest part that bothered me was the fact that we are changing the narrative of this organization and when you don’t have individuals that necessarily buy in to what you are doing to transform this to a best-in-class organization, this is the result that you get,” Gutierrez said.

“It really, really impacts the team members that we do have, it impacts the organization and it diminishes the successes that in the middle of a pandemic, the middle of an economic downturn, this health crisis, the progress that we are making just gets overlooked and overshadowed by this.”

The story also touches on the team’s first 2020 NHL Draft pick, Mitchell Miller, who bullied a Black classmate with developmental disabilities when he was 14. Miller pleaded guilty to one count of assault and one count of violation of the Ohio Safe Schools Act. After news broke of Miller’s past, the team released him.

“We are in incredibly good standing, we have 1,000% support from Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the NHL league office,” Gutierrez said. “They’ve made that public, they’ve made that known to us consistently here. They like what we are doing. That’s not to say that there aren’t things to improve on and we always say that.

“As good business people, you’re constantly seeking improvement, you’re constantly seeking iteration, you’re constantly seeking how to do best practices and we haven’t made any bones about the fact that we’re new to sports, we’re new to hockey. We’re not new to business, we know what we’re doing, we have a vision.”

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