NHL Board of Governors approves Coyotes sale to Salt Lake City

NHL Board of Governors approves Coyotes sale to Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — There will be NHL hockey in Salt Lake City next year after the league’s Board of Governors voted today to approve the sale of the Arizona Coyotes to Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith.

“Effective at closing, the approved transactions will result in the Coyotes’ franchise transferring the totality of its existing hockey assets – including its full Reserve List, roster of Players and draft picks and its Hockey Operations Department – to the Utah franchise,” stated a press release by the NHL this afternoon.

Who’s excited about Salt Lake City getting an NHL team? Well, not the Canadians.

News of the sale broke last Friday, April 12. By Monday, April 15, the NHL’s Executive Board approved the deal, paving the way for this afternoon’s vote.

TSN Hockey Insider’s Darren Dreger tweeted earlier today that Ryan Smith is expected to meet with the Coyotes’ staff and players this afternoon in Phoenix, Ariz.

ESPN has reported that the current deal would cost Utah Jazz Owners Ryan and Ashley Smith up to $1.3 billion, with $1 billion going to current Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo. The remainder of the money would be split among NHL owners as a “relocation fee.”

Meruelo, meanwhile, will reportedly keep the Coyotes name and will basically have first dibs on an expansion team to resuscitate the team if he can get a proper venue built for them in the next five years. The Hockey News reports that Meruelo will remain on the NHL’s Board of Governors for now.

Meruelo will reportedly sell the Coyotes to the NHL, which would then sell the team to the Smiths, according to ESPN. That means that while Utah would get the Coyotes’ players and staff, they won’t actually get the Coyotes’ name or logo. Utah’s team is, technically speaking, a new team. There has not been any official word on how the team would be rebranded.

Smiths post link for inaugural Utah NHL hockey season tickets

“We’ll start with Utah on the jersey and we’ll figure out the logo and everything else, and what it is that we are, but that’s a one-way door,” Smith told AP. “You’ve got to do it once. And with this timeline, I think both the league feels better and we feel better to just run the process and then we’ll drop it when we drop it.”

Meruelo has had the Coyotes in a temporary facility and has struggled in getting a permanent arena built for his team. Meruelo said he and the league agree that it was unfair for the Coyotes to continue to play in an arena that isn’t suited for NHL hockey.

“But this is not the end for NHL hockey in Arizona,” he said in the press release. “I have negotiated the right to reactivate the team within the next five years, and have retained ownership of the beloved Coyotes name, brand and logo. I remain committed to this community and to building a first-class sports arena and entertainment district without seeking financial support from the public.”

Meruelo also retains ownership of the Tucson Roadrunners, the franchise’s AHL affiliate, and hopes to move them to Mullett Arena, the Coyotes’ temporary home shared with Arizona State University the past two seasons. He plans to pay back the $1 billion once an expansion team is approved.

Coyotes win final game before move to Utah

The Smiths released the following statement:

“We are honored to bring an NHL team to Utah and understand the responsibility we have as stewards of a new NHL franchise. This is a transformative day for our state and our fans. Our intention had always been to pursue an expansion team. Commissioner Bettman conceived and proposed an ingenious plan that would allow us to acquire an NHL franchise while also helping to address and remedy an immediate need of the NHL. When he approached us and asked us for help resolving this situation, we made the bold decision to introduce a new franchise in Utah, fully understanding that we are stepping up to do something in a time frame and way that has never been done before in professional sports under these circumstances. We are committed to building a Stanley Cup contending team and are thrilled to welcome incredible players, coaches, staff, and their families to Utah. Today is a great day for Utah, for hockey, and for building a legacy that will have a lasting impact for generations to come.”

Smith Entertainment Group via NHL press release, 4.18.24

The Smiths, along with Bettman, are expected to hold a press conference at the Delta Center in downtown Salt Lake City tomorrow, Friday, April 19, at 5 p.m. MT.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also released a statement:

“This announcement is about more than bringing an NHL team to Salt Lake City—it’s a defining moment in our trajectory, becoming a catalyst for a positive vision that integrates community, connection, and more possibilities for families, residents, and visitors to experience our capital city. I’m thankful for the close partnership with Ryan & Ashley Smith, and the entire SEG team. This is the beginning of a new era that will generate exciting opportunities for our communities, amplify pride and unlock new potential in our downtown core.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, 4.18.24

Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance Executive Director Dee Brewer released the following statement:

The Downtown Alliance extends our warmest welcome to the Arizona players, coaches, and staff and invites them to explore Downtown and make it their home.

We are thrilled that NHL action will be added to Salt Lake City’s vibrant sports scene. We are grateful for Ryan and Ashley Smith’s hard work and investment in the franchise that will bring electrifying entertainment and new audiences to Downtown SLC and the state of Utah.

Downtown’s continuing ascension will be enhanced by the addition of hundreds of thousands of energetic hockey fans during the NHL season and postseason! We look forward to welcoming fans to our bars, restaurants, and retail shops.

We recognize and appreciate that the arrival of professional hockey will include more families in the downtown experience. It will foster a new cohort of Winter sports athletes. Professional hockey further elevates the experience for downtown visitors, workers, and residents.

Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance Executive Director Dee Brewer, 4.18.24

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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