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NHL Approves Arizona Coyotes’ Hockey Ops Move To New Franchise In Utah

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The NHL will be in Utah next fall. The Arizona Coyotes’ players will be suiting up for a brand-new franchise, in an unprecedented deal with the Smith Entertainment Group.
For the Arizona Coyotes brand, it might not be goodbye: it may just turn out to be ‘see you later.’
But for the players, the prospects and the team’s hockey operations department, next year is going to look very different.
On Thursday, the NHL’s board of governors officially approved the transfer of the Coyotes’ current hockey assets to the Smith Entertainment Group, controlled by Ryan and Ashley Smith and based in Salt Lake City.
Technically, this is not a relocation. Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo retains ownership of the Coyotes name, brand and logo. And while the franchise is now officially ‘inactive,’ Meruelo will have the opportunity to reactivate the Coyotes if he “has fully constructed a new, state-of-the-art facility appropriate for an NHL team within five years,” per a press release from the league.
While Meruelo is aggressively pursuing a parcel of land in North Phoenix which is going to auction on June 27, the league felt that it was time to look at options for the immediate future beyond keeping the hockey team playing its home games as the second tenant in 4,600-seat Mullett Arena, on the campus of Arizona State University.
“I agree with commissioner Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League, that it is simply unfair to continue to have our players, coaches, hockey front office, and the NHL teams they compete against spend several more years playing in an arena that is not suited for NHL hockey,” said Meruelo in the league’s statement. “But this is not the end for NHL hockey in Arizona.”
Next season, the team will be playing at Delta Center in Salt Lake City, which is the home of the Utah Jazz and is also owned by Smith Entertainment Group. It seats just over 18,000 for NBA games, per Nicholas J. Cotsonika of NHL.com, and will require some renovations to maximize its potential for hockey.
“Right now, we’ve got 12,000 perfect seats (for hockey),” said Smith. “But you know, I was just looking at the plans to be able to get to [about 17,500] on hockey without ruining the slope … We want to actually use our arena and really spend time creating the best dual-sport arena that exists out there, because we want to keep people as close as we possibly can or as vertical as we possibly can to watch both games.

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