The Arizona Coyotes (36-41-5) are officially an inactive franchise. Fans gathered in the Mullett Arena on Wednesday night to mourn the loss of their squad and celebrate the many memories the Coyotes gave the community in their 28-year existence. After failing to make the playoffs for the fourth-straight season, a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers might be the final dose of NHL ecstasy this desert ever gets to experience again.

And to be certain, the stinging heartbreak that comes from the team's relocation to Salt Lake City, Utah far outweighs the pleasure derived from winning an otherwise meaningless game against Edmonton. People are working through their emotions, which include both sadness and frustration. Much of those feelings are aimed at the man who agreed to transfer control of these Coyotes to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith– Alex Meruelo.

But maybe perception will change if he found a way to revive professional hockey in Arizona, or perhaps even elevate it to new heights. That is what Meruelo intends to do, at least.

The Cuban-American billionaire still technically owns the now-idle Coyotes, as the team still bearing their namesake will be rebranded in the Northwest. Meruelo has the opportunity to reactivate the franchise if he can find a new and suitable home.

“{Watching the final home game} confirms what I already know, that hockey belongs in the desert,” Meruelo told The Burns & Gombo Show, per The Athletic's Lauren Merola. “That's what we plan on doing in the future, in the near future.”

Can the Coyotes come back from this dismal fate?

 Arizona Coyotes players salute the fans in the crowd following the game against the Edmonton Oilers at Mullett Arena.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Meruelo assumed ownership of the Coyotes in 2019 and oversaw a turbulent era that was marred by COVID, losing and a tough transition to Arizona State's 4,600-seat arena in 2024. Interest dwindled, but the diehard fans did not waver in their loyalty to the team. Unfortunately, there was not enough resistance to prevent the inevitable.

With Tempe residents voting against a $2.1 billion proposal for a new arena last May, and an ostensible lack of other viable venues in the area, temporarily shutting down the team might actually be the only course of action to take. But will it actually be temporary?

Alex Meruelo alone holds the power to secure a new building for the Coyotes, thereby potentially bringing them back as an expansion team. There are many fans and former players who do not wish to place their faith in the individual who shipped out the now-former iteration of the franchise to Utah.

Though, according to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Meruelo initially opposed relocation and only agreed to the $1.2 billion sale because of the league's decision to deactivate the Coyotes rather than discontinue them outright. While that information might not be enough to quell fans' anger, they should be encouraged to know that Meruelo apparently has a plan in place.

Alex Meruelo set to take first step towards Coyotes' restoration

Meruelo can soon put his money where his mouth is when he attempts to purchase state land at an auction on June 27. He intends to use it as the foundation of the new Coyotes arena, which could in turn resuscitate Arizona hockey.

Fans have been yearning for a place to call their own for a long time, as the squad bounced around a bit over the past two decades. The team was forced out of Glendale's Gila River Arena in 2022 (now known as the Desert Diamond Arena) after Meruelo says he refused to sign a contract to guarantee residency for the next 20 years. The inconvenient commute admittedly made such a commitment a tough ask.

The present alternative is definitely not accommodating the public, but maybe this auction plan can eventually solve matters. Expenses will still be an issue, though, just as it was for the many people who flocked to the voting booth last year.

The reality of the situation is that there is a steep mountain to climb before the Arizona Coyotes can return to the NHL. But there is still hope.

“My goal is to do what has to be done from Day 1, to build the Coyotes a facility, an arena that they can call their house, their home,” Alex Meruelo said. “That is what I want to do, what I’ve been thinking from Day 1. That’s what I think is the most important part of the Coyotes' future and for the fans.”

And now Phoenix waits, determined to push through this dust storm of despair until there is ice in the desert once again.