Arizona Coyotes relocating to Utah: NHL board of governors approves sale to Jazz owner

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

The vote was unanimous.

The transaction is more complex than most. It saw the league act as a broker, with Smith Entertainment Group buying the Coyotes’ hockey-related assets for $1.2 billion — $1 billion going to current owner Alex Meruelo and $200 million earmarked as a relocation fee to be split among existing NHL owners.

The deal marks the end of an often tumultuous 28-year run for the organization since being relocated south from Winnipeg in 1996. The Coyotes only qualified once for the Stanley Cup Playoffs after an unexpected run to the 2012 Western Conference final, and that was during the expanded 2020 COVID-19 playoff tournament.


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What doomed them was the inability of ownership to secure a NHL-caliber arena, with voters in Tempe turning down three propositions last year to build a $2.1 billion entertainment district that would have included a new facility for the Coyotes.

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

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

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

The arrival of the NHL in Salt Lake City fulfills the vision of Ryan Smith, the billionaire owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and MLS’s Real Salt Lake. He began selling NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on the merits of Utah back in 2022 and formally invited the league to open an expansion process on Jan. 24, saying that he was ready to host a team out of Delta Center as soon as the 2024-25 season.



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Smith instead bought Arizona’s hockey-related assets. That includes players under contract or whose rights belong to the organization, head coach André Tourigny and his coaching staff, general manager Bill Armstrong and the scouting and management groups, plus trainers and other associated staff.

Utah will also begin play with a massive haul of draft picks accumulated during an aggressive selloff of players that began after Meruelo purchased the Coyotes in 2019. The team owns seven selections over the first three rounds of the upcoming June draft.

With the sale now approved, players and staff are expected to be given the chance to visit Salt Lake City early next week to tour facilities and get a feel for the region.

They’ll be calling it home by the fall.

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(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images))

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