Arizona Coyotes relocation
(Photo Credit: University of College/ Shutterstock)

The Arizona Coyotes are on the verge of a major shift, with Salt Lake City emerging as their new home after a tumultuous tenure in the desert.

The relocation, pending approval from the NHL Board of Governors, marks the end of a long-standing effort to find a permanent arena for the franchise in Arizona.

The Coyotes’ Struggle to Find a Permanent Home

The Coyotes’ inability to secure a suitable NHL arena has been the primary driver behind the move. The team has faced a series of challenges since leaving Gila River Arena in Glendale in 2022:

  1. Sharing the Mullett Arena with Arizona State University, which was never intended as a long-term solution
  2. The rejection of a $2.1 billion arena and entertainment district proposal in Tempe in 2023
  3. Ongoing issues with ownership and financial stability

These factors have led to growing frustration among fans and uncertainty about the team’s future in Arizona.

Utah’s Emergence as a Viable Option

As the Coyotes’ options in Arizona dwindled, Utah has stepped up as an attractive destination for the franchise. Several key factors have made Salt Lake City a compelling choice:

  • The presence of a deep-pocketed owner in Ryan Smith, who also owns the NBA’s Utah Jazz and has been pursuing an NHL team for years
  • The availability of the Delta Center as a temporary home arena, with plans for a new hockey-specific venue in the future
  • Strong support from local officials, including Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall
  • A growing market with a passion for winter sports and the potential to host the 2034 Winter Olympics

The Proposed Sale and Relocation

Under the proposed deal, the Coyotes would be sold to Smith for approximately $1.2-1.3 billion. The transaction would involve:

  • The NHL purchasing the team from current owner Alex Meruelo
  • Smith acquiring the Coyotes’ hockey operations and players
  • $1 billion going to Meruelo, with the remaining $200-300 million split among NHL owners as a relocation feel

Meruelo would retain the Coyotes’ name, logos, and trademarks, as well as the rights to an expansion team in Arizona if a new arena is built within five years.

The Impact on Arizona Hockey

The Coyotes’ departure would undoubtedly have an impact on the hockey community in Arizona. The team has been instrumental in growing the sport at the grassroots level, with youth hockey programs experiencing significant growth in recent years.

However, the move also presents an opportunity for a fresh start. If Meruelo succeeds in securing a new arena in Arizona within the five-year window, the state could welcome an expansion team with a clean slate and a more stable foundation.

Looking Ahead

As the Coyotes prepare for their final game in Arizona, fans are left to reflect on the team’s 26-year history in the state. While the relocation to Utah marks the end of an era, it also signifies the beginning of a new chapter for the franchise.

With a passionate owner, a supportive market, and the potential for a new state-of-the-art arena, the Coyotes may finally find the stability and success that has eluded them in Arizona.