NHL approves sale and relocation of Arizona Coyotes to Salt Lake City, effective immediately

The sale and relocation of the Arizona Coyotes to Salt Lake City, Utah has been approved by the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Board of Governors, the league announced on Thursday.

The NHL team has been sold to Smith Entertainment Group, which is led by Ryan and Ashley Smith, who also own the Utah Jazz.

The franchise will relocate to Salt Lake City immediately, playing at Delta Center alongside the Jazz, and will drop the puck in Utah later this year.

“As everyone knows, Utah is a vibrant and thriving state, and we are thrilled to be a part of it.” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

“We are also delighted to welcome Ashley and Ryan Smith to the NHL family and know they will be great stewards of the game in Utah. We thank them for working so collaboratively with the League to resolve a complex situation in this unprecedented and beneficial way.”

The NHL has left the door open for a new Coyotes team to return to Arizona.

In order to gain reentry, current owner Alex Meruelo would need to construct a “new, state-of-the-art facility appropriate for an NHL team within five years,” the league said.

Delta Center signage announces the NHL's arrival at the venue. - Rick Bowmer/AP
Delta Center signage announces the NHL's arrival at the venue. - Rick Bowmer/AP

Bettman added, “The NHL’s belief in Arizona never wavered. We thank Alex Meruelo for his commitment to the franchise and Arizona, and we fully support his ongoing efforts to secure a new home in the desert for the Coyotes.

“We also want to acknowledge the loyal hockey fans of Arizona, who have supported their team with dedication for nearly three decades while growing the game.”

On Thursday, Ryan Smith said that he wants to win championships and explained how he’s confident the new franchise will pull in lots of fans.

“The one thing I do know about Utah is people show up,” said Smith, also a co-owner of Major League Soccer team Real Salt Lake. “We just had the NCAA Tournament here for basketball, and the entire arena was full. It’s just different here.

“I mean, (the Jazz have) 291 straight sellout games at the Delta Center. I think every concert that’s come into town has sold out. It’s just what we do. We show up. I have a lot of faith in the people of Utah.”

The news, however, was met with sadness by those in Arizona, including Major League Baseball team the Arizona Dimondbacks.

“The entire Diamondbacks organization is disappointed in the now official news of our NHL team being relocated out of state,” said the team’s general partner Ken Kendrick and president, CEO, and general partner Derrick Hall.

“We firmly believe that we deserve and can support teams from each of the major sports and are troubled that a solution could not be found for all parties involved. We are sad for all sports fans and all who care so deeply about our community.”

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