Relocation rumors have swirled around the Arizona Coyotes for the better part of the last decade -- and they picked up steam again recently after reports suggested the team could ultimately relocate to Houston, as team owner Andrew Barroway is reportedly looking to sell a majority stake in the team.
But in an open letter to fans Wednesday, Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen reaffirmed his team's commitment to remain in the Valley.
"Recently, you may have read reports about a potential ownership transaction. As I have said for months, we will continue to explore investment opportunities to better assist our team in achieving our long-term goals and organizational vision. This process has at its core one key pre-condition: any investment in our team must be laser-focused on helping the Coyotes achieve a long-term sustainable arena solution here in Arizona," Cohen wrote.
"Every potential investment opportunity we evaluate and every business deal we consider is predicated on making our franchise successful here in Arizona for decades to come. Arizona is our home. We love it here. And we love playing for you, the very best fans in the NHL."
The Coyotes moved to Phoenix from Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1996 and played at what was is now known as Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the Phoenix Suns, until 2003 when they moved to what is now called Gila River Arena in Glendale. But the Coyotes have had some of the NHL's worst attendance numbers since that move, and they have been looking to move to a more central location in the Valley in recent years. They briefly had a deal in place to create a joint arena venue with ASU's hockey team in Tempe, but that deal fell through.
In 2017, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wrote a letter to the Arizona state legislature stating that the Coyotes can't remain in Glendale for the long term. But the legislature failed to approve nearly $400 million in funding that would lead to the creation of a new Coyotes arena in the Valley.
The Coyotes have placed an emphasis on growing hockey in the Valley among children. Last summer, former Olympic medalist Lyndsey Fry teamed with the Coyotes to host the NHL's only all-girls hockey program. Fry was later hired by the team to help grow youth hockey in the Valley and the state. In November, the Coyotes announced they will introduce street hockey curriculum to 700 Arizona schools by 2021.
"As a team, we have pledged to do even more in the community than we did last year, when we donated more than $2.7 million to a range of community organizations," Cohen said in his letter. "With U.S. Olympic hockey star Lyndsey Fry on board to help us grow youth hockey across Arizona, we will continue to sew our sport into the fabric of our home state, all over the Valley and all over our neighboring communities."