NHLPA says Coyotes ‘won’t be able to play in a university building forever’

      The Coyotes' plans for a new arena and entertainment district in Tempe were defeated by voters in May.

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      The Arizona Coyotes are exploring various alternative options in the Phoenix metropolitan area as they continue to seek a permanent arena solution, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday.

      Bettman held his annual “State of the Union” press conference in the hours leading up to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers. He didn’t take long to address the volatile situation in Arizona.

      “The Arizona Coyotes are going to explore what their other options are in the greater Phoenix area,” Bettman said. “We’re going to monitor that closely. Our hope is that one of the options that are being explored and considered will come to fruition.”

      The Coyotes’ plans for a new 16,000-seat arena and surrounding entertainment district in the city of Tempe, Arizona were rejected by voters in a referendum last month, putting the immediate future of the franchise in doubt.

      Marty Walsh, the new head of the NHL Players Association, is seeking greater clarity on the issue from the league.

      “I met with the Coyotes players and they asked a number of questions,” Walsh told le Journal de Montreal. “They’re NHL players and they play in a college arena. The commissioner said he wanted to look at other options in Arizona. But I’d like to know what the NHL’s plans are. There was a big step backwards with losing the vote in Tempe.

      “If we don’t have a new location in the near future in Arizona, we’ll have to have serious discussions with NHL officials,” Walsh continued. “The Coyotes players won’t be able to play in a university building forever. It’s not good for the NHL’s image and it’s not good for revenue sharing between players and owners.”

      The Coyotes will play the 2023–24 season in the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University. The club sold out all 41 of its home games in the facility in 2022–23.

      “It’s a terrific market,” Bettman said. “There are a lot of sports fans there. It’s a growing market. It’s one of the larger markets in North America and I think the club and, by implication, its fans have been in situations that have been unfortunate.

      “Maybe they’ve been a little bit victim of circumstance,” Bettman continued. “We’re at the stage now, the league, ownership, teams are strong, we’re in a better position to resist moving than maybe we were 20 or 30 years ago. We want to make sure we explore all options at this stage of where we are before we consider having to relocate a club, and I’m hopeful we won’t have to.”

      The Coyotes previously played at America West Arena (now Footprint Center) in downtown Phoenix before moving to a new building in the suburb of Glendale in 2003. The club struggled to attract fans in the west end of the Valley of the Sun and moved to Tempe in 2022 after contract talks broke down with the Glendale city council.

      According to recent reports, the Coyotes have explored the possibility of building a new arena on the site of an abandoned shopping mall complex in the city of Mesa, Arizona. It’s unclear whether the Coyotes could move back into the Footprint Center, which has undergone significant renovations since the club’s departure.

      The Coyotes finished the 2022–23 regular season with a 28–40–14 record and 70 points in 82 games, enough to finish seventh in the Central Division and 27th in the NHL. They’re slated to select No. 6 and 12 overall in the first round of the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft.

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