‘Don’t blink’: Ryan Smith talks NHL opportunity, team name bracket on Pat McAfee Show

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — “Don’t blink. Just say yes, let’s go, we’re going to figure it out and here we are six weeks later with an NHL team.”

Now-NHL club owner Ryan Smith appeared on ESPN’s The Pat McAfee Show on Monday, April 22. With a beautifully scenic view of Mount Timpanogos in the background – which he said was “mental health” – Smith called the preparation for NHL’s arrival in Utah “daunting.”

The 45-year-old who made his riches in the tech industry has long dreamed of bringing the National Hockey League to Utah. His dream came true last week when he acquired the Arizona Coyotes in sell that brought everything but the name and brand to the Salt Lake Valley. Smith said the entire transaction happened very quickly and there is a lot to do before the puck is dropped in October.

“We’re not going to be perfect. There is no way we’re going to be perfect but we’re ready to go and we’re going to need everyone in the community’s help,” said Smith. “This is truly a community asset. It’s going to be for Utah by Utah, let’s go.”

Renovations for Delta Center instead of new arena for NHL team

Perfect or not, Smith seems to have lofty goals for his new NHL team. During his interview with Pat McAfee, Smith said his wife, Ashley, stood up during a press conference declaring that they want to bring the Stanley Cup – NHL’s ultimate prize – to the Beehive State. And it seems as though Smith has the means and ambition to do it.

Under the Smith Entertainment Group umbrella, Utah’s professional athletes have been knocking on the door of championship silverware.

Smith acquired the Utah Jazz from the Larry H. Miller family in 2020. In the immediate years after, the Jazz won back-to-back division championships and finished first in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake – which Smith assumed part ownership of in 2022 – advanced to the semi-final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2023.

And on the surface level, it appears Utah is ready to rally behind Smith and Utah’s newest professional sports franchise in their goal to win trophies.

‘Thrilled to have you in the game’: NHL and SEG make their big announcement from the Delta Center

Smith told McAfee that ticket deposits for NHL games at the Delta Center have reached 27,000. The arena itself will only sit about 16,000 in its first year, with a few thousand of those seats having an unobstructed view of the ice. Thankfully, Smith has plans to renovate the downtown events center to eventually accommodate about 17,200 for hockey.

But one of the top items on Smith’s NHL team To-Do List is provide Utah a name, logo and set of colors to rally behind.

As much as McAfee and his friends poked and prodded Smith to drop a hint for the future Utah NHL club, Smith refused to give any indication of what the name could be. However, he did say the branding would be decided on by Utah’s hockey fans.

“We’re doing a bracket,” confirmed Smith, saying fans will be able to vote on their favorite names with the winner becoming the final name for the team. As for when the naming tournament will begin, Smith didn’t say.

Either way, Utah fans can rest assured they will be entertained when visiting the Delta Center for hockey.

“We are an entertainment company if you think about it. There’s talent, there’s distribution, there’s media. We’re putting on a show every night. We are literally trying to entertain and bring groups to people to rally around a common cause in the community,” said Smith. “Hopefully, they can forget about life for a while and cheer on something. You always can’t control the outcome of the show but we want that experience to be incredible.”

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