Arizona Coyotes president Xavier Gutierrez responds to rift with NHLPA head

Feb 23, 2024, 12:27 PM

Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez responded Friday to NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh’s comments in which he said he would support the team’s relocation out of the state.

Walsh spoke about the Coyotes’ arena situation at NHL All-Star Weekend earlier in February, saying “players want to play in an NHL arena.” Arizona currently plays at Arizona State’s 4,600-seat Mullett Arena and reportedly is closing in on purchasing land to build a new stadium.

Gutierrez said on Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta that Walsh originally offered to help Arizona with its previous Tempe arena plan before the relationship went sour.

“(Walsh) came to meet with us,” Gutierrez added. “He was at Mullett and he offered to try to work with us and help us in terms of the previous campaign that we were under. And then it seemed to stray. And the reality is both (Coyotes owner) Alex Meruelo and I had met with the previous PA head on a number of occasions and kept him quite informed when he asked us to. The current one has not requested a meeting, has not requested information but has been very vocal in a process that quite frankly we work with the commissioner and we work with the league and we work with the ownership on moving forward.

“So, we’re not quite sure what the animosity is. No one understands better that Mullett is a temporary solution. We know that more than anybody knows that. We have never shied away from saying that that is the case. And he’s heard that as well. So, I’m not sure if there is a positioning to try to show the players’ association that he is at the forefront of a process that quite frankly we deal with the commissioner on.”

Mullett Arena has about 10,000 fewer seats than the second-smallest NHL arena.

The Coyotes and ASU have a deal in place for the team to play their home games there through next season with an option for 2025-26.

Walsh criticized Meruelo as well as Gutierrez for not collaborating with the players’ association since Walsh took the position as executive director in the spring of 2023.

“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 during All-Star weekend.

Gutierrez on Friday did not have much of an update about the team’s arena plans after it lost a May 2023 vote to begin constructing an entertainment district in Tempe.

He said the team has “honed in” on state-owned land that if won at auction would not be subject to a public vote. The team is confident it will be able to win that auction, he said.

“A month after that (failed Tempe) vote, we submitted an application for state-owned land,” Gutierrez said. “We also looked at well over half a dozen other sites. We actually put two others under contract, one of which made the public news. We were not sitting idle.

“We know that (finalizing an arena plan) is the issue: This is the thing that will finally really calm all the concerns. We are committed to being here.”

Arizona Coyotes

Tucson Roadrunners...

Alex Weiner

Mullett Arena? Stay in Tucson? Plan for the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate Roadrunners remains unclear

The path forward for the Tucson Roadrunners, the AHL affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes, remains unclear under owner Alex Meruelo.

22 hours ago

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference at Hyatt Regency Phoenix...

Kevin Zimmerman

Gary Bettman, Alex Meruelo blame Tempe voters for Coyotes’ relocation

Gary Bettman and Alex Meruelo are still stuck on a failed Tempe vote on an Arizona Coyotes arena project rather than any missteps.

24 hours ago

Gary Bettman and Alex Mereulo speaking with Media in a press conference....

Bailey Leasure

‘We shall return:’ Gary Bettman remains committed to Arizona despite relocation to Utah

Gary Bettman remains supportive of NHL hockey in Arizona and Alex Meruelo despite the hockey team moving to Utah.

1 day ago

Alex Meruelo joins Burns & Gambo to discuss Coyotes move to Utah....

Bailey Leasure

Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo says selling Coyotes is something ‘I tried at every cost to avoid’

Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo joined 'Burns and Gambo' as he talked about the news of the sale and relocation of the team to Utah.

1 day ago

Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo joins Burns & Gambo in studio after team is sold to Utah group o...

Damon Allred

Alex Meruelo: ‘I am the only one’ to bring hockey back to Arizona

Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo believes in actions, not words so he wants Arizona hockey fans focused on the June 27 land auction.

1 day ago

Majority Owner, Chairman & Governor, Alex Meruelo of the Arizona Coyotes speaks at an introduct...

Kellan Olson

Alex Meruelo: Coyotes’ failure in Arizona ‘starts from the beginning’

Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo wanted to make it clear that is still his title when he joined 98.7 following the sale of the franchise.

2 days ago

Arizona Coyotes president Xavier Gutierrez responds to rift with NHLPA head