Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo

Arizona Coyotes fans are still mourning the team’s sale and pending relocation to Salt Lake City, but anyone who watched Friday’s media conference looking for answers was out of luck.

Alex Meruelo still retains the rights to the Coyotes franchise, which is now inactive, but can be reactivated if he can get a new arena built within the next five years. Meruelo and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media Friday to discuss hockey’s future in Arizona.

Meruelo got everything off to a painfully awkward start, explaining why he’s been largely absent from the public eye since purchasing the team five years ago.

“Because I don’t like the media,” Meruelo said. “It’s funny, I own two TV stations in Los Angeles, five radio stations in Los Angeles and I have never once been on any radio or any TV. I don’t like the media, I avoid media for many reasons.”

Bettman chuckled nervously at the first sentence, then quickly moved in to do damage control.

“Let me translate that a little bit,” Bettman said, drawing laughter from reporters. “I don’t think anyone should take that personally. I think he doesn’t like being a public person, right, and not that he dislikes the media … some people don’t like to be out there in public. He wouldn’t be the only owner in any sport who feels that way.”

“Let me clear it up — he’s exactly right,” Meruelo said. “I didn’t mean it that way, I’m being facetious. … I don’t like the limelight.”

Unfortunately for Meruelo, he’s found himself in the limelight recently as the team’s relocation to Salt Lake City unfolded. Many in the community are confused and upset. Longtime Coyotes broadcaster Todd Walsh told Arizona Sports 98.7 Thursday that everyone he’s talked to around the organization said the same thing: “This didn’t have to happen.”

Meruelo assured fans he’s not happy with the outcome.

“The most painful decision in my life and my 40 years of business,” Meruelo said. “My family and I are devastated and we share in your disappointment and heartbreak.

“I’m sorry things got to this point and I take full responsibility for my decisions.”

Bettman said the Coyotes’ arena situation made the team’s sale inevitable. The team played the past two seasons at tiny Mullett Arena (4,600 capacity) at Arizona State University, and efforts to build a new arena were not progressing as expected.

“We find ourselves here today under difficult circumstances because when the Coyotes moved into Mullett and played two seasons there, the belief was that it was going to be temporary,” Bettman said (via The Hockey News). “With the potential of five years at Mullett, It’s not fair to the players on the Coyotes, it’s not fair to players on the other team …”

[The Hockey News]; Photo Credit: PHNX Coyotes]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.