Arizona Coyotes relocating to Utah: NHL board of governors approves sale to Jazz owner

The Arizona Coyotes will officially head to Salt Lake City starting next season, according to league sources, after the NHL Board of Governors voted in favor of selling and relocating the team’s assets. team hockey on Thursday.

The vote was unanimous.

The transaction is more complex than most. This saw the league act as a broker, with Smith Entertainment Group purchasing the Coyotes’ hockey-related assets for $1.2 billion – a hybrid deal with $1 billion going to current owner Alex Meruelo and $200 million earmarked for moving costs to be distributed among existing players. NHL Owners.

The deal, finalized at 2 a.m. Thursday, marks the end of an often tumultuous 28-year career for the organization since moving south to Winnipeg in 1996. The Coyotes have qualified just once for the Stanley Cup playoffs after an unexpected run to the 2012 Western Conference Finals, and it was during the 2020 COVID-19 expanded playoff tournament.


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What doomed them was the inability to own an NHL-caliber arena, with Tempe voters rejecting three proposals last year to build a $2.1 billion entertainment district that would have included new facilities for the Coyotes.

The team has spent the past two seasons making its home in the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University, and played its final game there Wednesday in front of a sold-out crowd clad in T-shirts. white shirts – an ode to the “white-out” they had at America West Arena for the Coyotes’ first home playoff game on April 20, 1997 – during a 5-2 victory over the Oilers. ‘Edmonton.

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As part of the sale, the Coyotes franchise was officially declared inactive.

On Thursday, Meruelo admitted there was no way an NHL team would continue to play its home games at Mullet Arena, but insisted “this is not the end of NHL hockey.” NHL in Arizona.”

Meruelo will retain the logos, trademarks and branding associated with the team and was given a five-year window to bring an expansion franchise back to the Phoenix area if he is successful in building an arena.

“The NHL’s confidence in Arizona has never wavered,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “We thank Alex Meruelo for his commitment to the franchise and Arizona, and we fully support his continued efforts to secure a new home in the desert for the Coyotes. We also want to thank Arizona’s loyal hockey fans, who have devotedly supported their team for nearly three decades while growing the sport.

The NHL’s arrival in Salt Lake City fulfills the vision of Ryan Smith, the billionaire owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and MLS’s Real Salt Lake. He began selling Bettman on the merits of Utah in 2022 and officially invited the league to open an expansion process on Jan. 24, saying he was ready to welcome a Delta Center team as early as the 2024 season- 25.

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Smith instead purchased Arizona’s hockey-related assets. This includes players under contract or whose rights belong to the organization, head coach André Tourigny and his coaching staff, general manager Bill Armstrong and the scouting and management groups, as well as coaches and others associated staff members.

“We are honored to bring an NHL team to Utah and understand the responsibility we have as stewards of a new NHL franchise,” said Ryan and Ashley Smith. “Commissioner Bettman designed and proposed an ingenious plan that would allow us to acquire an NHL franchise while helping to meet an immediate need in the NHL. »

Although Utah’s new team – it won’t be Salt Lake City, it’s been decided – will have to create its own logos, marks and branding, Smith is in no rush to make those decisions, even if it means starting next season without a team nickname.

After the Board of Governors’ vote was announced, Bettman welcomed Smith and Ashley to the NHL family. “We thank them for working collaboratively with the league to resolve a complex situation in this unprecedented and beneficial way,” Bettman said.

Utah will also begin playing with a massive pile of draft picks accumulated during an aggressive player sell-off that began after Meruelo purchased the Coyotes in 2019. The team owns seven selections through the first three rounds of the next draft in June.

Once the sale was approved, players and staff were invited to visit Salt Lake City early next week to tour the facility and get a feel for the area.

They will live there until the fall.

“This announcement is about more than just bringing an NHL team to Salt Lake City: it is a defining moment in our trajectory, becoming a catalyst for a positive vision that embraces community, connection and more opportunity for families, residents and visitors to experience our capital,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Thursday.

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(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images))

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