New owner in Phoenix, same request for a new arena

Alex Meruelo was approved as the new majority owner of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL’s board of governors meeting on Wednesday.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also reaffirmed the league’s belief that the Coyotes need a downtown arena for the long-troubled franchise to have a future in Phoenix.

Andrew Barroway’s sale of a majority stake in the Coyotes to Meruelo won’t be closed until July, but the billionaire entrepreneur is approved to take charge of a team that has had several majority owners in the past two decades, including the NHL itself.

“I think (Meruelo) is committed to trying to get a new arena in the right location and making it work,” Bettman said. “He is a person of substantial means, and he is very good, if you look at his career, in turning around businesses and making them successful. I think this is an extraordinarily positive step for the Coyotes and their fans in Arizona.”

But the years of uncertainty for Coyotes fans are far from over.

Although the franchise couldn’t leave Arizona anytime soon due to NHL rules prohibiting new owners from immediately applying for relocation, Bettman pointedly didn’t rule out the long-term possibility.

“I’d rather not go there, because I’m not going to issue threats,” Bettman said. “(Meruelo) has told us, including in his interview with the executive committee, that he very much likes Arizona. He wants to make it work there, and he’s going to try very hard for that to be the case. Obviously, the club is not viable long-term in Glendale, but hopefully we don’t get to that point.”

Bettman says Meruelo shares the NHL’s belief that the Coyotes must have a new, centrally located arena to replace the 15-year-old building in suburban Glendale currently known as Gila River Arena.

“I think there’s a hope that he can crack that code,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “I think the combination of circumstances have conspired against that club for a long time now. They never seem to hit it at the right time. We’re hoping that circumstances are better, and obviously hope that Mr. Meruelo comes in, and I know he’s motivated about the market, so he maybe makes it work.”

Montreal to host 2020 entry draft

The Montreal Canadiens will host the 2020 NHL draft.

The NHL announced Wednesday the Bell Centre will stage the two-day event June 26-27, 2020.

It marks the 27th time the draft is in Montreal and the second year in a row the event will be held in Canada. This year’s draft is Friday and Saturday in Vancouver.

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