Unlucky No. 13: Arizona Coyotes skid nowhere fast in wake of ongoing arena concerns

Members of the Arizona Coyotes look on against the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-2 loss Tuesday, grappling with a 13-game skid and an uncertain franchise future. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

TEMPE – The Coyotes have hit a roadblock.

Arizona has dropped its past 13 games in a row, dating back to Jan. 22. With several tough games upcoming, it’s worth noting that the longest losing streak in Coyotes history stands at 15 games. With the season spiraling out of control, it’s a record the Coyotes certainly don’t want any part of. All the while, rumors continue to swirl off the ice about the future of the Coyotes franchise.

“It’s noise. You need to deal with that,” Coyotes coach André Tourigny said. “It’s the professional athlete life. Contract negotiations, trade rumors. In our case, those rumors, it’s part of the job. One day it will be something else. We want to be a championship team, and one day we’ll have other kinds of distractions. We need to learn to live with it.”

Following a first-half performance that had Coyotes fans excited about the team’s potential, they have come out of the All-Star break flat, continuing the losing streak they entered it on. With the season beginning to wind down, the Coyotes are in a race against the clock to regain their footing from earlier in the year and finish the season out strong.

“You know, we go on win streaks and losing streaks,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said. “We’re one of the youngest teams in the National Hockey League, so you’re going to get a little bit of that. Especially this time of the year with younger players it’s a hard grind, hard schedule. I felt like we’ve taken steps … two steps forward, one step back at times. But I like where we’re at in terms of our talent … culture and where we’re going.”

The Coyotes are currently playing home games at Mullet Arena in Tempe, which will officially become the sole home of the Arizona State Sun Devils hockey teams after the Coyotes depart. Their current contract is structured to end following next season. However, there is an option for another season, which appears likely since the Coyotes still have yet to find a permanent home.

This decision does not come lightly, as plenty of homework has been done over the last few years to find the best possible long-term solution for the team to stay in Arizona. The current status of the search lands the Coyotes in north Phoenix, near the Desert Ridge Marketplace. Owner Alex Meruelo is planning to bid on a plot of land in an upcoming auction, expected to begin on March 14.

Prior to this new location, many other attempts at building an arena and surrounding entertainment facilities have been unsuccessful. Most notably, the Tempe Entertainment District proposal was voted down on May 16, 2023. That project would have added apartments, an arena and entertainment facilities on a 46-acre property. However, Tempe residents protested against the project for weeks leading up to the vote, which was an overwhelming “no” to the proposal.

Following that proposal, Meruelo shifted his focus to moving the Coyotes to Mesa. This idea was brought to light at the same time as the north Phoenix location, with the latter outlasting the former.

NHL Players Association’s executive director Marty Walsh has been in the news recently, speaking about the Coyotes and their future. He feels he has been left in the dark by Meruelo in talks of current plans.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the ownership of Arizona, the president of Arizona. They have not reached out to the PA to talk about what the situation in Arizona is,” Walsh said. “Since I’ve been here, we have been working very closely with the league, been working to grow hockey.”

For now, there are no definite answers about where the Coyotes will play in the future. But time and options are beginning to run short on the future of NHL hockey in the desert.

“If there’s no plan in Arizona, I would encourage a move to another location, absolutely,” said Walsh.

Zach Mott(he/him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Zach Mott expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Mott has interned with the Varsity Sports Show doing camera and broadcast work.