An exciting summer for hockey fans in Arizona continues.
After acquiring Phil Kessel in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the end of June, the Coyotes announced that they now have a new majority owner on Monday.
Meruelo, a 55-year-old businessman with a broad portfolio that includes investments in casino gaming, real estate, hospitality and food services, acquired the team from Andrew Barroway.
"This is an incredible moment for me and my entire family," said Meruelo, according to the team’s official release. "I look forward to helping hockey continue to thrive in the desert, and I am committed to providing our passionate fans, loyal partners and the entire State of Arizona with a team they can be proud of for years to come."
Barroway will retain a minority stake in the team, according to the release.
Meruelo nearly became the first Hispanic majority owner in NBA history back in October of 2011, when he had reached a reported $300-million agreement to buy a majority stake in the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena. However, according to David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times, “negotiations fell apart during the NBA approval process.”
Now that he has a professional sports team under his wing, Meruelo hopes to build the franchise and its fanbase like he did his California-based Meruelo Group.
Arizona finished the 2018-19 regular season with a record of 39-35-8 to finish four points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Although the team hasn’t made a postseason appearance since falling in 2012 Western Conference Final, there’s plenty of reason to be encouraged about the on-ice product going forward. The aforementioned Kessel comes in following back-to-back campaigns of at least a point-per-game production. Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, meanwhile, continue to develop into NHL stars while the goaltending duo of Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper has proven to be very solid.
Meruelo’s main concern will be to try to get more people into Gila River Arena on a consistent basis. According to ESPN, Arizona’s average attendance of 13,989 during the 2018-19 season placed them 29th in the NHL.
It was the 12th-straight season that they finished in the league’s bottom three.
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