There have been existential threats to the Coyotes before.

There was a May 26, 2000 down payment that Steve Ellman made to purchase the club four hours ahead of a midnight deadline — a sale that was aided in great part by Wayne Gretzky’s decision to join the club as a partner. Had Ellman missed that deadline, the well-founded speculation was that original Coyotes owner Richard Burke would sell the team to billionaire Paul Allen and the Coyotes would move to Portland, Oregon.

There was the City of Glendale’s $180 million commitment (co-owner Jerry Moyes chipped in $40 million) to build an arena for the Coyotes that opened in December 2003. With Scottsdale still waffling over a new arena on the site of the old Los Arcos Mall, moving into their own building was considered crucial to the Coyotes’ financial survival after they had outgrown the revenue potential of America West Arena as a Phoenix Suns tenant.

There was Judge Redfield T. Baum’s Nov 2, 2009 ruling that threw out Jim Balsillie’s bid to buy the team out of bankruptcy and move it to Hamilton, Ontario. Baum tossed Balsillie’s bid on the grounds that he could not overrule the NHL Board of Governor’s 26-0 vote to reject Balsillie as an owner. 

There was the 4-3 vote by the Glendale City Council to approve a 15-year, $225 arena-lease agreement between the city and the Coyotes to keep the team in Arizona when rumors were once again swirling about relocation (Glendale ripped up that agreement two years later, citing questionable conflicts of interest).

And then there was the franchise’s unorthodox and widely pandered decision to move to ASU’s Mullett Arena for the 2022-23 season when Glendale informed the Coyotes that it would not be renewing the franchise’s year-to-year lease, leaving it homeless. That cancellation was made because the Coyotes refused to sign a long-term lease agreement and not, as the popular national narrative goes, because the Coyotes had failed to pay bills.

At this point in the story, I am hearing past editors’ voices in my head, telling me that I have taken far too long to get to the point. Well, it has taken the Coyotes far too long to get to this point. There is no arguing critics’ assertions that this franchise has been a hot mess for two-plus decades. There have been too many owners, too much mismanagement, too many bad decisions in business, in marketing, in the draft, in free agency, in trades and yes, in location choice.

It never rains in Arizona, but for fans of this franchise it feels like one giant nimbus cloud has hovered overhead since the turn of the millennium. If it’s true that all of those showers bring May flowers, then this could be the turning point that those fans so richly deserve.

I covered all of the aforementioned events in this timeline. I have covered this team since the turn of the millennium. I don’t think it’s a stretch to call May 2023 the most pivotal month in Coyotes history. Here’s why.

 NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly holds up the Coyotes logo at a recent draft lottery
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly holds up the Coyotes logo at a recent draft lottery. (Getty Images)


Coyotes key date: May 8, draft lottery

The Coyotes were supposed to be tanking for Connor Bedard this season, or at least for Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson or Matvei Michkov. But a funny thing happened at Mullett. The Coyotes had their first true home-ice advantage in years so they won more home games than 13 NHL clubs, including the playoff Cinderella Seattle Kraken. That dropped them to the sixth-worst record in the league and the sixth-best odds at landing Bedard.

We have discussed the Coyotes’ rotten lottery luck ad nauseam. Unlike the Penguins, Blackhawks, Oilers, Sabres, Devils and numerous other teams, the Coyotes have never benefited from the lottery system. They have never moved up, they have often moved down and somehow, despite the aforementioned struggles, they have never had a top-two pick.

While Arizona may not have the best odds of changing that script on May 8 at the NHL Draft Lottery, it must possess some of the best odds via the law of averages.

Look, no matter what happens in this draft, as long as Ottawa doesn’t somehow jump into the No. 2 or No. 3 slot (the Senators can’t move to No. 1), Arizona will have two top-12 picks. That means they will likely come away with two very good players.

“It reminds me of the year (2010) with the Blues, where we ended up getting Jaden Schwartz (No. 14) and Vladimir Tarasenko (No. 16),” said GM Bill Armstrong, who spent two decades with the Blues scouting department. “Having two really good players come out of a draft really sets your organization up for a long time and we feel like there’s that possibility this year.”

On the other hand, if fortune finally smiles upon the Coyotes and they jump up into one of the top two spots, this lottery could alter the franchise for a decade. Adding either Bedard or Fantilli to a prospect pool that already includes Logan Cooley, Dylan Guenther, Conor Geekie and others could make this the best forward prospect pool in the league, and that doesn’t even include the player whom the Coyotes would select at No. 12.

At that point, they would probably be one more strong draft away from building sustainable success; a critical commitment on which past ownership groups or managers have always pulled the plug prematurely.

An artist rendering of the proposed Coyotes arena and adjacent entertainment district
An artist rendering of the proposed Coyotes arena and adjacent entertainment district. (Getty Images)


Coyotes key date: May 16, Tempe vote

Eight days after the lottery, the Coyotes will know the fate of the proposed arena and entertainment district on the south bank of the Salt River at the corner of Rio Salado Parkway and Priest Drive. If Tempe citizens vote yes on propositions 301, 302 and 303 pass, the City of Tempe will still need to sort through recent legal action taken by the City of Phoenix, but that legal action would not prevent the Coyotes from breaking ground on their arena. 

This has been an incredibly contentious campaign. Opponents of the arena have levied all sorts of accusations against Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo, citing his failure to pay contract and taxes in the past as proof that he can’t be trusted. But opposition campaign literature has also strayed into mistruths and outright lies.

It has misled voters about the reasons for the Coyotes leaving Glendale. It used a portion of a quote from Tempe Mayor Woods out of context to make it sound as if Woods’ opposed the deal when in fact he supports it wholeheartedly. And while calling Meruelo corrupt, it has hidden some of its own relationships and agendas, which former mayors Hugh Hallman and Neil Giuliano noted in an appearance on the PHNX Coyotes show.

There are legitimate concerns about this project from an opposition standpoint, including traffic, noise, the scale of its plan and its financing, but every former Tempe mayor, all seven members of the current council, past council members, the Tempe Chamber of Commerce, countless other city leaders and numerous local unions support this deal. Arizona State University and Tempe have both vetted Meruelo thoroughly and come away satisfied with his ability to pull off this deal.

On May 16, we’ll find out if that is enough. 

It goes without saying that this vote is the linchpin of the Coyotes’ future in Arizona. While I have heard hints about a Plan B, and I have heard of other potential building sites, I have not heard anything concrete enough on which to report, and I have not heard of any other sites that make nearly as much sense as this one. 

The TED would be centrally located for the entire fan base, but it would be significantly closer to the vast majority of the team’s fan base and the city’s wealth and population base than Glendale. The Coyotes haven’t been this close to a viable solution since Ellman bailed on the Los Arcos possibility two decades ago.

As we noted, if the lottery doesn’t go the Coyotes’ way, they will probably still get two good players, but they will also be looking for that elusive franchise center that Cooley might become, but the likes of which we haven’t seen since Jeremy Roenick left town. 

If the arena vote doesn’t pass, the concerns of relocation will amplify to a fevered pitch, although no current reports offer more than suspect sourcing and careless speculation.

If both the lottery and the vote go the Coyotes way, however, May 2023 may well be remembered as the month in which the NHL’s favorite punching bag finally punched back with force.

Top photo of the Coyotes vaulting their fans via Getty Images

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