NHL preparing contingency to relocate Coyotes to Utah

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NHL Contingency Plan for Arizona Coyotes Relocation to Utah

The National Hockey League (NHL) is currently exploring a contingency plan that could see the relocation of the Arizona Coyotes to Utah as early as next season, according to sources familiar with the matter. Despite the league’s commitment to having a franchise in Arizona, concerns have been raised regarding the viability of the Coyotes’ proposed arena project in Phoenix, which involves owner Alex Meruelo’s bid to secure land in an upcoming auction.

Potential Relocation to Salt Lake City

Should the Phoenix arena plan fall through, the NHL has devised a backup option that involves selling the Coyotes to Ryan and Ashley Smith, who are the owners of the NBA’s Utah Jazz. This contingency plan includes the preparation of two separate schedules for the upcoming season—one for the Coyotes in Arizona and another for their potential move to Utah, as initially reported by Daily Faceoff.

While an official announcement regarding the relocation could be imminent, multiple sources caution that the situation remains fluid. Approval for the relocation would be contingent upon a vote by the NHL’s board of governors, with the next scheduled meeting set for June. However, the board could convene earlier via virtual means, underscoring the evolving nature of the situation.

Coyotes Players and Arena Situation

In response to reports of a possible relocation, the Coyotes have refrained from commenting on speculations surrounding a move to Salt Lake City. Players within the team have expressed uncertainty over the developments, stating that they are relying on media reports to stay informed.

Since the 2022-23 season, the Coyotes have been playing their home games at Mullett Arena, a 5,000-seat venue situated on the campus of Arizona State University, while actively seeking a more suitable NHL-sized arena. According to Coyotes president Xavier Gutierrez, the team’s agreement with ASU spans three years with additional one-year extension options, potentially extending through the 2026-27 season.

Details of a Potential Sale and Relocation

Should a relocation occur, the process would involve a two-step transaction wherein the NHL would buy the Coyotes from Meruelo for an estimated $1 billion. Subsequently, the league would sell the franchise to the Smiths for a speculated price of up to $1.3 billion, indicating a significant financial investment in the team’s future.

With the potential relocation, there is a provision that grants Meruelo first rights to purchase an NHL expansion team should the league opt to return to Arizona in the future. The Phoenix market has proven desirable for the NHL due to its television viewership, proximity to other Western Conference teams, and a rising interest in youth hockey development.

Utah’s Enthusiasm for NHL Presence

Utah, specifically Salt Lake City, has emerged as a strong contender for an NHL team, with Smith Entertainment Group formally petitioning the league for an expansion franchise in the region. Smith has expressed a keen interest in welcoming an NHL team to Utah, affirming his commitment to the endeavor.

In preparation for a potential relocation, the Utah team would play at the Delta Center, owned by Smith and also serving as the home arena for the Utah Jazz. While initial exhibition games have taken place at the venue, NHL leadership has highlighted the need for hockey-specific upgrades to establish the Delta Center as a permanent NHL facility.

Salt Lake City Government Support and Arena Development

Smith has garnered support from local government officials, with discussions progressing on a bill advocating for an NHL arena and entertainment district in downtown Salt Lake City. The proposed legislation includes a 0.5% sales tax increase to fund the initiative and is currently under review in the Utah State Senate.

Notwithstanding these developments, the NHL’s decision to outline dual schedules underscores the Coyotes’ ongoing quest for a viable arena solution. From enduring bankruptcy in 2009 to facing arena lease complications in recent years, the team’s pursuit of a permanent home remains a pivotal issue.

The most recent setback stemmed from voters rejecting a proposed arena plan in May 2023, prompting the team to pivot towards acquiring land in Phoenix for potential construction. However, the auction for the land is slated for June 27, casting uncertainty over the Coyotes’ future arena prospects.

Historical Precedent and Potential Timeline

If the relocation were to materialize, it would mark the first NHL team move since the Atlanta Thrashers’ shift to Winnipeg in 2011. The approval of such a relocation would follow a timeline that mirrors previous NHL franchise moves, with ownership changes and league approval requisites shaping the process.

In conclusion, the prospective relocation of the Arizona Coyotes to Utah underscores the dynamic nature of professional sports and the strategic considerations underlying such decisions. As developments unfold, the NHL’s meticulous planning and stakeholders’ anticipation reflect the complexity of franchise movements within a competitive sporting landscape.

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About Post Author

Chris Jones

Hey there! 👋 I'm Chris, 34 yo from Toronto (CA), I'm a journalist with a PhD in journalism and mass communication. For 5 years, I worked for some local publications as an envoy and reporter. Today, I work as 'content publisher' for InformOverload. 📰🌐 Passionate about global news, I cover a wide range of topics including technology, business, healthcare, sports, finance, and more. If you want to know more or interact with me, visit my social channels, or send me a message.
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