Arizona Coyotes fans sound off about team's possible plans to relocate to Salt Lake City

Danny Schultz is a lifetime hockey and Arizona Coyotes fan, and he even got a tattoo on his shoulder in honor of the team.

Hockey was an important part of Schultz's life as he fondly remembered playing the sport on the icy rinks of his hometown in upstate New York before he moved to Arizona in 1976.

However, hockey in Arizona may be in limbo. The Coyotes and the National Hockey League aren't talking yet about the future with two games left in their season, but Salt Lake City and a prospective owner there are hungry for a franchise and rolling out the red carpet.

The NHL did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday. Its board of governors would have to approve any ownership change or team relocation. But the Phoenix Mayor's Office released a statement and two letters from Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo.

The Coyotes likely would be sold to billionaire Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, and the deal will guarantee Meruelo an expansion team if a new arena is built in Arizona within five years, the Associated Press reported Saturday, quoting an unnamed source.

The deal would transfer the franchise’s hockey operations first to the NHL and then to Smith, who plans to move the team to Salt Lake City, the AP reported.

The Arizona Republic talked to Phoenix residents on Saturday about how they felt about the hockey franchise moving to a new state.

Schultz said he didn't hesitate to become a new fan of the then-Phoenix Coyotes when the team relocated from Winnipeg, Canada, to Phoenix in 1996.

"When they first got here, we got season tickets," Schultz said.

But Schultz said he and fellow fans with season tickets opted not to follow the Coyotes' move to Glendale in 2003.

"The biggest problem the Coyotes had is they should have never left downtown Phoenix. And the other problem is that everybody that lives here is from somewhere else, so they don't have a true fan base," Schultz said.

The lifetime hockey fan said he was unsure if he would continue to watch the team and that it would be dependent on whether the games would be available to watch on TV, as the current Coyote games were viewable on Channel 61 in the Valley, according to Schultz.

Mark Roy said he operated a Chicago-based hockey training company known as 200x85. He organized a camp at Mullet Arena in Tempe, which serves as the present home of the Coyotes.

"I just heard today about all the players getting flown to Utah and check out the facility and it seems like they're going to have a lot of support there, but I also talk to a lot of people in Arizona that really like coming to Mullet Arena and enjoy watching hockey in that really intimate environment," Roy said.

"A lot of people are unhappy about it (the move)," said Roy, who added that he observed the Coyotes' public proposal to have a stadium built in Tempe denied by city voters.

Nick Bastian, a real estate agent from Tempe, publicly advocated for the Coyotes' proposed arena that was denied by Tempe voters last year.

"My entire life I liked that we had all the major teams, and I think it's unfortunate that it looks like we're going to lose one, and I'm hopeful that maybe they'll be able to bring something back one day," Bastian said.

"I've been to a game at Mullet, my goodness it's such an electric atmosphere, and they (Coyotes) have such a great group of young players, it's been really exciting to watch," Bastian said.

"The no vote from Tempe will be looked at as one of the biggest political mistakes in our history of the city," Bastian said of the city's decision not to approve an arena in Tempe for the Coyotes.

Justin Bradshaw, a Colorado resident attending the hockey camp in Arizona, is a dedicated fan of the Colorado Avalanche. He closely monitored rumors suggesting the Coyotes might relocate out of the state.

"I think Utah is great, we were just there for youth hockey… I was actually kind of surprised how nice it was," Bradshaw said.

He was cautiously optimistic about the move to Salt Lake City. "For hockey it's great, assuming there's a plan to get something back here (Arizona), because I would hate to see hockey leave the desert, it's made a huge impact on youth hockey and developing players," Bradshaw said.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Coyotes fans sound off on team's possible Salt Lake City move