A wide range of topics were addressed during Alex Meruelo's introductory press conference Thursday afternoon at Gila River Arena to set the table for the organization's next chapter, one that's certainly saturated with promise and gleaming possibility. The Coyotes' new Majority Owner, Chairman and Governor fielded questions on matters that ranged from the outlook of the team's future in the Valley, to offseason player acquisitions, and his family's impact.
To his right sat President and CEO Ahron Cohen, and to his left, General Manager and President of Hockey Operations John Chayka, of whom, as a trio, left a confident and committed impression.
Words laced with stability, commitment, trust, loyalty, determination and passion summarize five standout takeaways:
WIN, WIN, WIN
Alex Meruelo was direct in disclosing where his priorities will stand in regard to delivering a winning on-ice product. Despite only taking official stake of majority ownership this past week, he has already been involved in offseason additions, including the acquisitions of the prominent and proven forward Phil Kessel on June 29 and center Carl Soderberg on June 25.
"Short term is to make the playoffs, we want to make the playoffs," he said when asked of his goals. "Long term is to win multiple Stanley Cups, but let's start with one, one is good. Let's win one Stanley Cup and from there we'll go on."
And of course, every successful organization needs a dedicated support system. "I want to win, I've committed to the team, to the coach," he added. "I want to do everything I can to give the resources, the financial resources and support to win the Stanley Cup."
TRUST AND LOYALTY
If there was an outstanding message sent by Meruelo, it was the passion he's driving with to pursue the trust and loyalty of the Coyotes' fan base. "I believe that I have to earn their trust and loyalty, that's on me," he said when speaking of the fans. "If I do that, I know they'll respond, and they'll respond by coming out and watching the games and supporting us."
"I really want to enjoy the team," he added. "We've got a good group of people running it between Ahron [Cohen], John [Chayka], Marina [Carpenter] and Coach [Rick] Tocchet. I'm here to support them, but more importantly, I want to enjoy the team and bring a winner to the Valley and this fanbase and city because it means a lot to me, and to them."
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
Intelligent minds think alike, and that was certainly evident by way of the chemistry emitted between Meruelo and John Chayka during and after the press conference. "I think this is a guy that's very committed to winning, he's very willing to do whatever it takes to win, that's what he's communicated to me," Chayka said. "He's proven that with some of the moves he's made; Phil Kessel, Carl Soderberg; those are guys that he had to pay for, and he's willing to do that."
Chayka, extremely detail-oriented through his daily dealings with player analytics and salary cap structure, finds fascination in what Meruelo offers with his well-established background.
"I think it's pretty clear that Alex is different, he's unique, I think it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with him, I think he's an elite business mind. I've been extremely impressed, not only with his business acumen, but how he goes about his business, and for us here I think it allows us to take this thing to the next level."
THE AMERICAN DREAM
A humble upbringing that carved Meruelo's passage to become one of the world's most successful business owners is a chord that left Ahron Cohen thoroughly fascinated.
"It's the true American success story," Cohen exclaimed of Meruelo's path. "The son of Cuban immigrants, he worked hard and became a billionaire, it's what everyone dreams of in this country. When I met him, I was even more impressed because of his drive, his determination, his conviction and his passion, his commitment to his family, and I knew at that day that we had our guy."
Cohen was convinced from the start. "We had our guy that was going to create a new day for this franchise, we had our guy that was going to move us forward, and we had our guy that was ultimately going to help us achieve long-term success here in Arizona."
A FAMILY AFFAIR
With over 40 members of his closest relatives in attendance Thursday, including one of his pets, Meruelo spoke to the profound impact they have had on his career, and ultimately his decision to go forth with the majority purchase of the organization.
"I spoke to my family first and they were very supportive," he said when asked to describe a pivotal turning point in the process. "I spent time with the commissioner and I have nothing but great things to say about him, he was very warm, very inviting. Then I spoke to the team executives, and that's when I realized that I have a lot to work with, and that's what sold me. The city itself, the people here, they're very nice, they're very warm, it feels very comfortable here. You have that, you have the support of family, and you have support of the executive team, it makes me say 'I'm ready'."
Lucy, one of Meruelo's two pet maltipoos, was present, donning a customized jersey during the press conference, stealing the hearts of many.
*Lead photo courtesy: Norm Hall