NHL’s Coyotes say goodbye to Arizona ahead of rumored move to Utah

It was a packed house at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Arizona, to watch the last game of the season – and potentially in the state of Arizona for the Coyotes.

The team has been linked with a move to Salt Lake City as soon as next season. Although an official move has yet to be announced, the National Hockey League has not denied that Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith will become the new majority owner of the franchise.

According to Sports Business Journal’s Alex M. Silverman, Smith was asked Wednesday about the rumors he was taking ownership of the Yotes and bringing the team to Salt Lake City. Smith said, “There’s no secret on what’s out there online. Normally, not everything on the internet is true, but in this case, it’s pretty true.”

Arizona Coyotes fans in the crowd hold signs for the players following the game against the Edmonton Oilers at Mullett Arena. - Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

CNN has reached out to the NHL for comment.

In the team’s 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers, Coyotes fans let their distaste for the potential upcoming move be known. Video showed fans chanting “Salt Lake sucks,” but those chants quickly turned to ovations in the moments leading to the final whistle.

Players and coaches embraced each other and came to center ice to give the crowd on hand a potential send-off. Everyone posed for a photo afterward as emotional fans looked on, and upon leaving the ice, players gave fans their sticks and other equipment.

Last week, Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo said in a statement that he understood and empathized with the “concern of our fans, our community, our partners, our players, our front office, and all of our team members.

“We are focused on a myriad of issues that are unresolved and therefore we are unable to make any official comments at this time,” Meruelo continued. “However, you have my commitment that I am going to speak on all of these issues and publicly address all of your concerns as promptly as possible.”

Team legend Shane Doan joined the broadcast during the second intermission to talk up the state of Arizona.

Arizona Coyotes players celebrate together on the ice after defeating the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 at Mullett Arena. - Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
Arizona Coyotes players celebrate together on the ice after defeating the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 at Mullett Arena. - Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

“You know all the things that people say about Arizona as a hockey state,” Doan said. “I think it is. You’ll never convince me that it’s not.”

Doan’s son, Josh, who is a rookie on the Coyotes, also had a message to the fans before the game.

“The Coyotes are still Arizona’s team for one more day,” Doan said.

The Coyotes have been playing at Mullet Arena, a multi-purpose arena on the Arizona State University campus for the last two seasons.

The Sun Devils’ arena, which opened in the fall of 2022, seats 5,000 spectators. It is the smallest arena in the NHL, behind the Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg, Canada, which seats 15,061 fans.

The Coyotes had previously played at the Gila River Arena, in Glendale, just northwest of Phoenix before the move to Tempe.

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