The Arizona Coyotes held a meeting with their players and staff members Feb. 19 regarding the future of the franchise.
With the Coyotes’ lease at Gila River Arena in Glendale set to expire at the end of this season, the team is planning to relocate to Arizona State University’s new arena temporarily until a venue is built in Tempe.
Elliotte Friedman explained what was discussed in the meeting during Saturday’s 32 Thoughts segment on Hockey Night in Canada and said Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, was also in attendance.
“I was told by a couple of people that it was a really blunt meeting,” Friedman said. “The players asked a lot of pointed questions about how we’ve gotten to this point and how the future is going to work for the Coyotes.
“Xavier Gutierrez, who is the team’s president and CEO, answered the questions, and I heard he was pretty honest. As much as he could answer the questions — because I still think there are still a lot of unknowns — he answered them and tried to address the players’ questions as much as he could, but the bottom line here is they still don’t have a lot of answers.”
Although Friedman doesn’t believe the NHLPA could block the team’s move to ASU’s arena, which is a much smaller venue with a capacity of only 5,000 seats, the lack of transparency between the team and players about the situation has Schneider concerned.
“One of the things Schneider indicated was, look, 90 per cent of these players aren’t going to be in the Coyotes lineup when the new building is ready, should it get built,” Friedman said. “Secondly, the thing he said was, look, they feel really in the dark, and if you don’t build a rapport with these players now, it won’t matter if you get a new building built because the reputation will be out that you keep your players in the dark.
“I heard Gutierrez got the message and I think that he’s going to answer all the questions that he possibly can, but it was really just a tough meeting between the Coyotes and the players, and it’s pretty clear the players feel that they don’t like the situation and they just wish there were a lot of better answers they can get towards it.”
In September, the Coyotes proposed a $1.7-billion development in Tempe that included a hockey arena, restaurants, shops and apartments on a 46-acre tract of land near the city’s downtown. However, the proposal was reportedly in danger of not getting enough votes to pass.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman endorsed the Coyotes’ plan to share ASU’s arena in February but only as a short-term solution, and they will still need to secure their own permanent home.
The Coyotes will also need to build team-specific areas in ASU’s arena — such as dressing rooms and training facilities — to comply with NCAA rules.