Without a plan in Arizona, NHLPA head ‘would encourage’ a Coyotes relocation

Feb 2, 2024, 4:24 PM

IIHF President Luc Tarif,  NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman s...

IIHF President Luc Tarif, NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speak with the media on February 02, 2024 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

NHLPA executive director Martin Walsh is “extremely disappointed” in how the Arizona Coyotes have handled their arena situation, going so far as to encourage a relocation if there’s not a plan by the end of the 2023-24 season.

“We have a team in Arizona that doesn’t seem interested in having conversation with the union who represents the players that play on that team,” Walsh told reporters at an All-Star Weekend event, expressing disappointment in owner Alex Meruelo and president Xavier Gutierrez for not working with the players’ union since Walsh took over in spring 2023.

The Coyotes began playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest, in 2022-23. The NHL team and ASU have a deal for the pro team to play there this season and next with an option for 2025-26.

Walsh, however, said “the players want to play in an NHL arena,” even if it means an abrupt location change after this season.

Reports in December indicated that the Coyotes were “finalizing the purchase” of land in the city of Phoenix with plans to build the team’s new arena there, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan had first reported the intention of the NHL team to pursue a specific plot of land in northeast Phoenix near the Scottsdale border.

The Coyotes hit a road block when a privately-funded plan in Tempe was shot down in a special election. While the Tempe vote delayed them, that project would have required about a year of land remediation because it was a former landfill, leaving the team without an immediate solution in the Valley.

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Without a plan in Arizona, NHLPA head ‘would encourage’ a Coyotes relocation