It’s Official! Arizona Coyotes Sale Approved by the NHL, Team Moving to Salt Lake City

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It’s official, the Arizona Coyotes are no more… at least for now.

As was first reported last week by hockey insider Frank Seravalli, the National Hockey League has facilitated the sale of the Coyotes franchise. The deal is certainly unique. Coyotes’ owner Alex Meruelo has agreed to sell the team directly to the NHL for $1 billion and rights to a future expansion franchise if and when the league expands. In turn, the NHL has agreed to sell the franchises’ hockey assets to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Smith Entertainment Group. With full approval from the NHL Board of Governors, Smith will transfer the hockey assets to Salt Lake City.

The new Utah NHL franchise will begin playing during the 2024-25 NHL regular season.

The NHL confirmed the move on Thursday afternoon in a press release.

Meruelo’s group will retain an ownership stake in the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Tucson Roadrunners and will reportedly move the Roadrunners from the Tucson Convention Center to the Mullett Arena, the now former home of the Coyotes. Meruelo will also continue business operations and will move forward with a plan to build a sports and entertainment district in northeast Phoenix. Selling the team will allow Meruelo more time to negotiate with local and State of Arizona partners on the controversial arena proposal. 

The sale ends (for now) the Coyotes 28-year stay in the Arizona desert.

For Now … So, The ‘Yotes Could Comeback?

Yes, so to speak. The Coyotes belong to Arizona.

The sale of the Coyotes to the National Hockey League is unique in the sense that it will allow the NHL to take over the name, image, and likeness of the franchise. This will allow the NHL to “sell back” the rights to the Coyotes’ name, image, and likeness to Meruelo’s group if they’re able to secure an arena deal. The history and records will move with the players and coaches to Salt Lake City, however. 

It has become a trend over the past 15-or-so years to leave a team’s athletic identity with a city rather than with the physical team.

There was notable outrage when teams left cities and took with them the teams’ identity. For example, the NFL’s Baltimore Colts becoming the Indianapolis Colts, the Houston Oilers becoming the Tennessee Oilers before becoming the Tennessee Titans or the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars becoming the Dallas Stars. The original Cleveland Browns name staying in Cleveland when the team moved to Baltimore is often cited as the start of this trend. An NHL example would be the Winnipeg Jets name, image, and likeness returning to Canada in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated. 

Believe it or not, the Coyotes have a very loyal fan base in Arizona and have built a tremendous hockey community in the desert. This deal will ensure the “Coyotes brand” will stay with the people of Arizona if and when another franchise comes to the Arizona desert.

If the Name Stays in Arizona, What Does Smith’s Group Receive?

According to the NHL’s release, Smith Entertainment Group will receive the following from the now former Arizona Coyotes ownership group:

  • Full reserve list
  • Full hockey roster
  • Hockey operations department

The yet-to-be named Utah franchise will play their games at Delta Center, home of the NBA’s Jazz, for the foreseeable future. Salt Lake City and the State of Utah are in the final phases of approving funding for a new downtown arena that would become the home of the Utah NHL franchise and host ice hockey in the 2028 Olympic Winter Games.

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