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

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The papers finishing the sale of the Arizona Coyotes to Ryan and Ashley Smith were signed at 2 a.m. this morning, and now there are only a handful of months to get the Delta Center ready for NHL hockey for the 2024-25 season.

The Smiths joined NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on stage this afternoon to officially make the announcement that has been the worst-kept secret in sports for a couple weeks now.

Ryan Smith’s task of getting NHL franchise off the ground

But the clock is ticking. The turnaround will be tight, and the Smiths know it.

“We are not going to be perfect,” said Ryan Smith.

Smith explained that renovations will begin at an as-of-yet unspecified date to make sure that there will be around 16,200 seats on opening night with 12,000 of them unobstructed. That will increase over time to around 17,500 seats.

Meanwhile, deposits for season tickets have already crossed 22,000 people.

The Smiths and Bettman explained that this might be one of the quickest deals ever done in professional sports. While the Smiths have been in contact with Bettman for “a couple years,” the current plan signed last night started on March 6, 2024.

“I didn’t know for sure this was going to happen until Tuesday night,” said Ryan Smith.

Bettman explained that the Smiths are solving a major problem the Coyotes faced after previous owners failed to get support for a new arena in Phoenix, Ariz. Because the state, county and city government were all aligned and because the Smiths were committed, Bettman said they’re actually helping the NHL.

Bettman pointed to the letter publicly published by the Smiths in January, asking for a hockey team. Little did they know how fast the turnaround would be.

“We look at the market, we look at the arena, we look at the ownership, and we want to put a team in a place that will make the league stronger,” said Bettman. “Utah checks all those boxes.”

Ryan Smith said both the NBA and NHL pushed his organization to be creative to be able to run an arena that can support both sports. At first, he did not think it could be done.

However, Ryan Smith said he intends to make sure that in creating a space for a Utah hockey team, he won’t be compromising the basketball experience for Utah Jazz fans. In the long run, the situation will improve the basketball fans’ experiences, said Ryan Smith. He did also say he plans to have both the Jazz and the hockey team continue to plan in the same arena.

NHL Board of Governors approves Coyotes sale to Salt Lake City

On the government side, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall all gave brief speeches to show a unified front in not only bringing the team to Utah, but to build a downtown entertainment district around them. Ryan Smith noted that it would be easier for his organization to move to the southern part of the valley, but instead, he’s rolling the dice on making downtown Salt Lake City into a new home for sports.

Details, however, have not been revealed on the plans for that district, though voters will still have to weigh in on the possibility of a 0.5% sales tax increase to help create that district. Ryan Smith said he was excited, if not entirely ready, to share those plans.

Ashley Smith said she and her husband see the sports teams as a way to unite citizens in a divisive world. Ryan Smith and Bettman both lauded legislators on how they moved to pave the way for the NHL team in the most recent legislative session.

The Smiths confirmed that leadership of the team, including General Manager Bill Armstrong and Head Coach André Tourigny will remain on staff next year.

“The only thing we’re acquiring are the people,” Ryan Smith noted. “We need the people.”

Indeed, the team will get a new name and branding, as the sale included stipulations that the Coyotes branding will remain with Arizona. No new name was announced at the press conference.

Team Welcome Party set for next week

An event will be held on Wednesday, April 24 to welcome the team to Salt Lake City at the Delta Center at 4 p.m. Doors to the center will open at 4:30 p.m. and fans will be greeted with a number of activities, while the first 5,000 fans will receive a ticket voucher reedeemable for two seats at a preseason NHL game or a Utah Jazz game at the Delta Center.

At 5:30 p.m., fans can enjoy a programmed event with introductions to the players for the as-of-yet-unnamed team. Prizes will also be available.

You can view the full press conference below:

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