Tempe, Arizona- After years of being stuck in purgatory, the assets of the Arizona Coyotes are moving to arguably the winter sports capital of the United States.

Today, the National Hockey League announced that they are establishing a franchise in Utah. The assets of the Arizona Coyotes have been sold to the Smith Entertainment Group, led by Ryan and Ashley Smith. The Coyotes’ name and likeness will remain with Meruelo, as he will aim to add an NHL expansion franchise within the next five years.

The Coyotes have had a complicated history. Relocated initially from Winnipeg, the Arizona team struggled to build a consistent fanbase due to its inconsistent ways, as the Yotes’ last playoff appearance was in 2020. The team also struggled financially and even filed for bankruptcy in 2009, leading the NHL to run the team for a couple of years.

In the years following Alex Meruelo’s purchase of the team in 2019, the team was thrown into further turmoil. They played in Desert Diamond Arena, but their lease didn’t get renewed after they didn’t pay its taxes on time, among other issues. The Coyotes then moved to Mullet Arena, which had the smallest capacity in the league by a wide margin and had underwhelming facilities for players. The situation had become an embarrassment to the league. Ownership kept pushing for a new arena, but voters thwarted this plan in 2023.

Their latest attempt was an announcement a couple of weeks ago that they intended to win a land auction in June. However, various factors, including uncertainty about the successful bid, the Mayor of Scottsdale originally saying that he was against those plans, and the league being over the team using the Mullet Arena, led the NHL to intensify their talks with Ryan Smith. On Friday night, the Coyotes players were told they were moving to Utah, and their fate was sealed. The Coyotes played their final game at the Mullett Arena last night.

However, the first couple of years will have its challenges. The main issue is the feasibility of their home rink: The Delta Center. The venue has hosted NHL exhibition games in recent years, but this has shown its flaws as an NHL venue. While larger than Mullet Arena, the Delta Center can only fit 16,200 for hockey events (12k around 75% unobstructed, 25% obstructed). Behind the goal, sightlines reminisce of the obstructed view seating from when the Islanders were situated in the Barclays Center. Renovations are planned in the summers of 2025 and 2026, bringing them up to 17,000 unobstructed seats.

Since the Coyotes name is staying with Meruelo, the franchise must undergo a rebrand. For its first season, the team will likely go without a name. The new name of the team has yet to be announced. Some popular name suggestions include the Yeti, Blizzard, Golden Eagles, and Super Soakers. I’ll let you figure out the meaning of the last name yourself.

Ultimately, I believe the NHL made a great choice by adding a franchise in Salt Lake City. In spite of being around for decades, the Coyotes struggled to find solid footing in the Phoenix area. Salt Lake City is a great winter sports market, and putting an NHL team there will help grow the game of hockey. They will face some challenges, like the awkward setup and rebranding for the first few years, but this has the potential to become a strong market for the NHL. This is the place.

Image/Video Credits: Saul Flores (Featured Image), Arizona Coyotes, NHL, Mike Gould, Ian Wood

Unofficial Networks Newsletter

Get the latest snow and mountain lifestyle news and entertainment delivered to your inbox.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Have any post ideas or corrections? Reach out to me: ian@unofficialnetworks.com.