The relocation of the Arizona Coyotes to Salt Lake City prompts different reactions in both cities

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman found himself in contrasting situations in two different cities, reflecting on the changes in the Arizona Coyotes’ journey. In Phoenix, he discussed the team’s relocation, while in Salt Lake City, he celebrated the enthusiasm of the new fan base.

Despite the challenges, Bettman emphasized the league’s commitment to hockey in Arizona over the past thirty years and expressed confidence in the sport’s success there.

Hockey thrived in the desert for nearly three decades, despite facing significant challenges.

In their 28th year since moving from Winnipeg, the Coyotes encountered obstacles that led to the franchise’s relocation to Utah.

Due to various internal and external issues, Alex Meruelo sold the Coyotes to the Smith Entertainment Group, a move swiftly approved by the NHL Board of Governors.

This $1.2 billion deal grants SEG owner Ryan Smith control over hockey operations, while Meruelo retains ownership of the name and focuses on building a new arena in Arizona.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman approached Meruelo with the idea of selling the team to secure a suitable arena. Despite initial reluctance, the deal was finalized within six weeks. Bettman emphasized the importance of having committed owners and being part of communities like Salt Lake City.

Arizona Coyotes Chairman (Credits: Bleacher Report)

The sale sparked contrasting reactions in Arizona and Utah. While Utah fans eagerly embraced the news, showing strong support with 11,000 season ticket deposits in just a few hours, Arizona’s response was mixed.

The new Utah-based team inherits a solid foundation laid by Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong’s aggressive rebuild over the past three years.

With a talented core of players like Clayton Keller, Logan Cooley, and Dylan Guenther, the team aims to return to playoff contention, aiming to reach the postseason for the first time since 2012.

In Salt Lake City on Friday, Utah fans welcomed Bettman with enthusiastic applause, a rare sight for the commissioner. Crowds gathered outside the Delta Center to take photos with new “NHL in Utah” signs.

Smith, alongside Bettman and his wife, Ashley, expressed confidence in Utah’s potential. He emphasized the unity among Utah residents, spanning across political, religious, and educational lines, in supporting the NHL’s arrival.

Meanwhile, Arizona fans felt disappointed and distrustful towards Meruelo and the Coyotes’ management. They accused them of being dishonest regarding the team’s commitment to staying in Arizona long-term.

Despite the uncertainty, there’s a glimmer of hope for the Coyotes’ future. If a new arena is constructed within five years, the franchise promises to be “reactivated.” Meruelo’s group aims to acquire land in north Phoenix for an entertainment district, including a new arena.

Meruelo reassured his commitment to keeping the Coyotes in the Valley, highlighting Phoenix’s status as a major sports market with four professional teams. However, for now, Arizona remains without a hockey team in the foreseeable future.


By Ritik

Ritik Katiyar is pursuing a post-graduate degree in Pharmaceutics. Currently, he lives in Srinagar, Uttarakhand, India. You can find him writing about all sorts of listicle topics. A pharmaceutical postgrad by day, and a content writer by night. You can write to him at [email protected]

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