NHL takes big step in relocating Arizona Coyotes to a new U.S. city

Mike Armenti
April 10, 2024  (10:52)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
Photo credit: Rob Schumacher, The Republic

Just about everyone in the hockey sphere knows of the struggles to keep the Arizona Coyotes in the State of Arizona. However, the latest reports indicate that the team may have a new home next season: Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Arizona Coyotes have been in peril sincelosing their lease with the City of Glendale, Arizona's Gila River Arena back in 2022. Now, playing their second season at Mullett Arena, sharing a home rink of less than 5,000 seats with a University team, the Coyotes have been the butt of many jokes around the NHL. Meanwhile, the league has done everything in its power to keep the team in Arizona and to find a long-term solution for the Coyotes. As it turns out, the NHL may already have a long-term solution in mind for the Coyotes - in Salt Lake City.
Smith Entertainment Group recently submitted a formal request to the National Hockey League to initiate the expansion process to bring a team to Utah. The ownership group already has an arena situation, and a good one, as they currently have the NBA's Utah Jazz playing out of Delta Center in Salt Lake City. As several other NBA teams share a home arena with an NHL franchise, the NHL already knows that this situation can work, leading to today's announcement.
Per Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli, the NHL has plans to organize two separate drafts for the 2024-25 NHL schedule - one where the Coyotes remain in Arizona and the other where the Coyotes are moved to Salt Lake City.
Obviously, Seravalli was quick to point out that this situation is very fluid still and that there are lots of "moving parts", but the NHL even considering this means that it's a realistic possibility.
Smith Entertainment Group head Ryan Smith is really leaning into the NHL on the idea of bringing a team to Utah. He confirmed as much to The Athletic earlier this week in an interview, dropping quite the affirmation.
"We are interested. We are ready, and we're a partner. The arena is done. We think we have a solution. And that's my message to the NHL." - Smith on bringing an NHL franchise to Utah

Of course, the Coyotes' current owner, Alex Meruelo remains focused in his desire to keep the team in Arizona, currently fixated on a land deal that would allow the Coyotes to build a brand new Arena in Phoenix, the team's original home after they were relocated from Winnipeg back in 1996. What really caught people's attention last week, though, was when it was announced that Meruelo has had preliminary conversations with potential buyers for the franchise, with the price tag reportedly being set at around $1 billion USD.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has stated on a number of occasions, very publicly, that the league believes that a team can thrive in Arizona. He has backed the Coyotes all the way through this process, so to see the league now preparing for life without a team in Arizona is actually surprising, even though it shouldn't be.
Obviously, nobody knows what's going to happen yet, but the fact that the Smith Entertainment Group already has an arena deal in place for an actual NHL-sized audience may spell the beginning of the end for the Coyotes in Arizona.
More on this one as it develops.
10 AVRIL   |   294 ANSWERS
NHL takes big step in relocating Arizona Coyotes to a new U.S. city

What do you think will happen with the Arizona Coyotes this summer?

They'll remain in Arizona3612.2 %
They'll be moved to Salt Lake City, Utah20569.7 %
They'll be moved to another city5318 %
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