The NHL’s own Canadian bubble league is set to start this week, and on the eve of many teams entering the two host cities of Vancouver and Toronto one team saw its general manager abruptly quit. The Arizona Coyotoes announced on Sunday that GM John Chayka quit the Coyotes, one of 24 teams in the NHL that will head into the bubble as the season resumes with a warmup for an extended Stanley Cup Playoff.
Rumors swirled that something was up with Chayka despite having years left on his contract, and the thought was that another team was interested in his services.
Hearing via a league source that John Chayka terminated his contract with the Coyotes just over 48 hours ago. He had three years remaining on it. No confirmation yet from the team.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 26, 2020
The Coyotes soon made it official with a bizarre statement from the organization where they claimed Chakya “quit on a strong and competitive team” and its fans.
“John Chayka has quit as the General Manager and President of Hockey Operations of the Arizona Coyotes.
“The Club is disappointed in his actions and his timing as the Coyotes prepare to enter the NHL’s hub city of Edmonton, where the team will begin post-season play for the first time since 2012. Chayka has chosen to quit on a strong and competitive team, a dedicated staff, and the Arizona Coyotes fans, the greatest fans in the NHL.
The statement is as aggressive as we’ve seen a team make publicly about the departure of a staff member, which perhaps adds context to the abrupt departure in a front office that’s seen a considerable turnaround in the league. Arizona saw growing fan support in the often-struggling market and was praised for its efforts on the ice and off of it to rally the fan base this season.
Chayka will be replaced by Steve Sullivan in an interim basis, and the Coyotes said he has the “full support” of the organization. The league’s trade deadline is well past at this point and there isn’t much a GM can do unless major roster decisions are needed amid COVID-19-related illnesses. Still, it’s a fascinating decision and there are already rumors that Chayka intends to go elsewhere in the NHL, leaving behind a team headed to the postseason in one of the weirdest sports years we’ve ever seen.