Arizona Coyotes move to Utah: NHL Board of Governors approves sale to Jazz owner

The Arizona Coyotes are officially headed to Salt Lake City starting next season, according to league sources, after the NHL Board of Governors voted in favor of the sale and transfer of the team's hockey assets on Thursday.

The vote was unanimous.

The deal is more complicated than most. It saw the league act as an intermediary, 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 a transfer fee that would be split among existing players. NHL owners.

The deal, which was finalized at 2 a.m. Thursday, marks the end of a tumultuous 28-year run for the organization since it moved south from Winnipeg in 1996. The Coyotes have only once qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs after an unexpected run to the 2012 Western Conference Final This was during the 2020 expanded COVID-19 qualifying tournament.

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What doomed them to failure was the ownership's inability to secure an NHL-caliber arena, as Tempe voters rejected three proposals last year to build a $2.1 billion entertainment district that would have included a new facility for the Coyotes.

The team has spent the past two seasons at the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena on the Arizona State University campus, playing its final game there Wednesday in front of a sold-out crowd wearing white jerseys — an ode to “white.” “They had them at America West Arena for the Coyotes' first home playoff game on April 20, 1997 — during a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers.

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

On Thursday, Meruelo admitted that it was not possible for an NHL team to continue playing its home games at Mullet Arena, but insisted that “this is not the end of NHL hockey in Arizona.”

Meruelo will retain the logos, marks and branding associated with the team and has been given a five-year window to bring the expansion franchise back to the Phoenix area if he can build an arena.

“The NHL’s faith in Arizona has never wavered,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “We thank Alex Meruelo for his commitment to the franchise and Arizona, and fully support his continued efforts to secure a new home in the desert for the Coyotes. We also want to pay tribute to Arizona's loyal hockey fans, who have selflessly supported their team for nearly three decades during the game's development.”

The NHL's arrival in Salt Lake City fulfills the vision of Ryan Smith, the billionaire owner of the NBA's Utah Jazz and the NBA's Real Salt Lake City. Pittman's sale on Utah State's merits began in 2022 and the league officially called for the expansion to open on Jan. 24, saying it was prepared to host a team from the Delta Center as soon as the 2024-25 season.


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Instead, Smith bought hockey-related assets in Arizona. This includes players who are under contract or whose rights belong to the organization, head coach Andre Tourigny and his coaching staff, general manager Bill Armstrong and his scouting and management groups, as well as coaches and other associated personnel.

“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 has developed and proposed an ingenious plan that will allow us to obtain an NHL franchise while also helping to address and address the immediate need for the NHL.”

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While Utah's new team — it won't be Salt Lake City, where much has been decided — will have to create its own logos, branding and trademarks, Smith is in no rush to make those decisions. Even if it means starting next season without a team title.

After news broke about the Board of Governors vote, Bettman welcomed Smith and Ashley to the NHL family. “We thank them for working collaboratively with the league to resolve a complex situation in such an unprecedented and helpful way,” Bettman said.

Utah will also begin play with a slew of draft picks accumulated during the aggressive player selloff that began after Meruelo's purchase of the Coyotes in 2019. The team has seven picks through the first three rounds of next June's draft.

With the sale approved, players and staff have been invited to visit Salt Lake City early next week to tour the facilities and learn about the area.

They will call it home by 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, as we become a catalyst for a positive vision that integrates community, connection and more possibilities for families, residents and visitors to experience our products,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Thursday.

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