Arizona Coyotes reportedly planning move to Salt Lake City


Armand Sicat/Lariat

After 28 years in the desert of Arizona, the Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League have an apparent agreement to head to Utah as early as next season.

Contingency plans have been prepared by the NHL in the event that the Coyotes do move to Salt Lake City next season or stay in Arizona. A move to Salt Lake City would see the Coyotes franchise being sold to NBA’s Utah Jazz owners, Ashley and Ryan Smith who have expressed continued interest in bringing the NHL to Utah. 

The relocated team would likely play in the Delta Center, the current home for the Utah Jazz. The team would likely rebrand, changing their team name and colors. 

“Our goal is the NHL in Utah,” said Jazz owner Ryan Smith. In January, the Smith Entertainment Group formally announced that they had initiated the NHL expansion process, taking the first step in bringing an NHL team to Salt Lake City. “And I’ll leave the rest up to Gary [NHL commissioner].”

The existence of a contingency plan in the event that relocation becomes a reality does not guarantee that it’s a done deal. A relocation of an established NHL team such as the Arizona Coyotes would mean an expedited process of playing NHL hockey in Salt Lake City. 

Since the 2022-23 season, the Arizona Coyotes have been playing their home games at Mullet Arena in Tempe- a 5000 seat arena that was originally built for Arizona State University’s collegiate ice hockey teams. Both the Coyotes and the NHL have encountered turmoil in their use of the collegiate arena, which is substantially smaller than a typical NHL arena.   

The relocation agreement comes on the heels of skepticism by the NHL and state public officials on Coyotes ownership proposing a multi-million dollar arena for the city of Phoenix that would include the construction of an arena, a practice arena, a live music theater and a serviceable entertainment district. 

The primary concern for the NHL is the 110 acres of land needed for the new construction in Phoenix would be up for bid- meaning the NHL would have to solely rely on Coyotes owner, Alex Meruelo, winning the bidding, and then wait for construction to complete around 2027.

The last team in the NHL to have relocated was the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011 when they relocated to Winnipeg, Canada to become the Winnipeg Jets

A public announcement on the planned relocation of the Coyotes could come as early as this month. The NHL Board of Governors will vote on the official approval of the relocation in June.