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HomeSportsHockeyNHL News: Sale of NHL's Coyotes, relocation to Utah approved

NHL News: Sale of NHL’s Coyotes, relocation to Utah approved

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Utah was approved as the home of the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday when the purchase of the NHL franchise to Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith received the green light from the league’s Board of Governors.

Utah will be considered a new franchise, will change the existing name of the team and begin playing in Salt Lake City next season.

The NHL confirmed the deal in a brief social media post Thursday afternoon that read “The stage is set for #NHLinUtah!” with an accompanying highlight video during which commissioner Gary Bettman says, “The NHL is thrilled to be coming to Utah.”

Bettman said soon after in an NHL release: “As everyone knows, Utah is a vibrant and thriving state, and we are thrilled to be a part of it. 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 $1.2 billion purchase to bring hockey to Salt Lake City began as what Smith said last week were discussions about being considered for an expansion team.

But without a stadium to call home until at least 2027 based on not-yet-approved plans and outlines in Phoenix, the conversation jumped to purchasing the Coyotes for relocation.

That deal was first approved by the NHL’s executive committee last week and ends the public seesaw that included outright denials about the move from Bettman as recently as Tuesday at a public appearance in Los Angeles.

Alex Meruelo received $1 billion for selling the team, according to reports, with the other $200 million split among the NHL teams. Meruelo keeps the name, intellectual property of the Coyotes, now an inactive franchise. He has five years to attempt to build an arena and put a team in Arizona, ESPN reported.

Arizona has been a franchise in limbo since Meruelo purchased the team. Meruelo unveiled a plan to buy a 110-acre site in Phoenix and build a privately funded arena as the second season of playing home games at 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, Ariz., wrapped up this week.

In May 2023, a third stadium referendum was rejected by voters in Arizona, setting the wheels in motion for Meruelo to divest of the franchise he purchased in 2019 for $300 million. Bettman said at the time the NHL was “terribly disappointed” to be facing the outcome due to limited local support for the stadium plan.

Houston and Atlanta were considered in initial relocation studies by the NHL. But sliding north to Utah likely proved to be the least-complicated option for the NHL, allowing the Coyotes to remain in the same division and walk into a readymade, full-time home facility in Vivint Arena.

Bettman said this week a new stadium in Arizona would’ve been on a three- to five-year timeline.

–Field Level Media

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