Former Coyote Paul Bissonnette laments club’s move: ‘Hockey belongs in the desert’

Former Coyotes player Paul Bissonnette gets emotional speaking about the relocation of Arizona, thanks the organization, and says 'hockey belongs in desert.'

Former Arizona Coyote Paul Bissonnette offered up an emotion-filled ode to his old hockey club after the team’s final game on Thursday, offering praise for fans and staff, but not pulling punches when it came to ownership.

Wearing a tuxedo in honour of the occasion, Bissonnette spoke on TNT’s U.S. broadcast, where he works as a studio analyst, lamenting the expected sale and departure of his former team to Salt Lake City.

“I was a borderline NHLer. I was fortunate enough to get picked up by waivers by the Arizona Coyotes,” the 39-year-old from Welland, Ont., said. “I thought maybe I was gonna be there for a month or two and got to spend five of the best years of my life living out my dream in the National Hockey League.”

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Bissonnette then went on to deliver a laundry list of thank yous to various members of the organization, but stopped short when it came to owner Alex Meruelo, who is expected to sell the franchise to the NHL, who will then sell it to Utah Jazz of the NBA owner Ryan Smith, for relocation to Salt Lake City.

Bissonnette was drafted 121st overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003, but was claimed by the Coyotes in 2009. He played 187 of his 202 career NHL games with the franchise.

The issues in Arizona have been long-running but are tied largely to the club’s inability to find a suitable home, with recent failed attempts and uncertainty in Meruelo’s latest plan prompting the NHL to force a move. The team played the last two seasons at Arizona State University’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena.

“It just sucks the way this was drawn out and the way people were treated there,” Bissonnette said. “Not crazy about the way that ownership handled things and the way that people that I care about were treated.

“I know that hockey belongs in the desert. I know that it will be back there. I don’t want the former owners who were there to be the ones that bring it back.”

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