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NHL approves Arizona Coyotes Hockey Ops move to new franchise in Utah

NHL approves Arizona Coyotes Hockey Ops move to new franchise in Utah

 


It may not be goodbye for the Arizona Coyotes brand: it could just be goodbye.

But for the players, the prospects and the teams' hockey departments, things will look very different next year.

On Thursday, the NHL's board of directors officially approved the transfer of the Coyotes' current hockey assets to the Smith Entertainment Group, controlled by Ryan and Ashley Smith and based in Salt Lake City.

Technically, this isn't a move. Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo will continue to own the Coyotes name, brand and logo. And while the franchise is now officially inactive, Meruelo will have the opportunity to reactivate the Coyotes once he fully builds a new, state-of-the-art facility fit for an NHL team within five years, according to a league news release. .

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As Meruelo aggressively pursues a parcel of land in North Phoenix that will be auctioned on June 27, the league felt it was time to look at options for the immediate future, other than the hockey team continuing to play its home games as a second tenant in the region. 4,600-seat Mullett Arena, on the campus of Arizona State University.

I agree with Commissioner Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League that it is simply unfair to allow our players, coaches, hockey front office and the NHL teams they compete against to continue playing for several more years in an arena that is not suitable for NHL hockey, Meruelo said in the league statement. But this isn't the end for NHL hockey in Arizona.

Next season the team will play at Delta Center in Salt Lake City, home of the Utah Jazz and also owned by Smith Entertainment Group. There is room for just over 18,000 seats for NBA games per Nicholas J. Cotsonika of NHL.comand will require some renovations to maximize its potential for hockey.

Right now we have 12,000 perfect seats (for hockey), Smith said. But you know, I was just looking at the plans to get there [about 17,500] on hockey without ruining the slope… We want to actually use our arena and really spend time creating the best dual-sport arena out there because we want to keep people as close as possible or as vertical as we can both watch matches.

How do we keep that going and at the same time make it really cool and innovative for hockey? And it's super fun and challenging, but we were going to do it.

Smith made his fortune as co-founder of Qualtrics, an experience management company that was sold to SAP for $8 billion in 2019, and with which Smith is still involved. In 2020, he purchased the Jazz and the Delta Center and in 2022, he partnered with David Blitzer to purchase Real Salt Lake from Major League Soccer.

As co-owner of the New Jersey Devils, Blitzer pitched him to the allure of NHL ownership.

He says, “My favorite place in the world is against the glass in New Jersey. Any sporting event, that's my happy place, Smith told Cotsonika. And I say: Wow.

The original plan was to follow in the successful footsteps of the Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken and acquire an expansion franchise. But after the Coyotes failed in the referendum vote that would have launched a new arena and entertainment complex in Tempe in May 2023, the league began considering another way to get Smith involved.

“I think we look at it and say, Hey, look, we can be helpful,” Smith said. I think there are ways in which expansion would be much easier and much better. I think there are also ways in which this is much better. Infrastructure has been built. There is a grille. There are assets. So look, we can all talk about what's the better option five years from now, but Utah is ready for a team. Let's go.

Without much time to prepare before the puck drops on the 2024-2025 NHL season next October, Smith has said he plans to take his time developing the new team's name and brand. One thing is for sure, but like the Jazz, the team name will be Utah and not Salt Lake City.

This timeless approach to branding was also adopted by the new women's hockey league, the PWHL, which used its market names as a means of identification in its inaugural season.

So while the Utah team doesn't have a brand yet, it does have a solid foundation of on-ice talent to build on, as well as a wealth of prospects and draft picks.

Because they have been operating on a shoestring budget for years, the Coyotes have regularly sold assets and salary cap space and built up that prospect pool. Over the past three years, they've made a whopping 31 draft picks, and that group has already produced NHL players like forwards Logan Cooley, Dylan Guenther and Josh Doan, as well as defenseman JJ Moser, who has more than 200 NHL games played.

Per capFriendlySmith's new asset package also includes another 33 picks over the next three years, including 10 second-rounders. These could be used to further build out the prospect pool or could be useful trading assets if GM Bill Armstrong gets the green light to accelerate the rebuild by making deals for established top talent.

With more than $40 million in cap space expected to be available for the 2024-2025 season, Utah could also be a major player in free agency at a time when the salary cap is finally set to rise after years of stagnation since COVID -19 crisis. pause.

After the Coyotes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 in an emotional final game at Mullett Arena on Wednesday, Smith plans to begin his outreach to the players and staff as soon as possible to ensure they have a great experience .

There is a good roster and a lot of young talent, Smith said. We need to get those people on board with Smith Entertainment Group and show them what that means and what that's like… introduce them to the state of Utah and also bring the community together to host them, and that's what we want doing.

I mean, I think they've been in a place where it's been a little bit tough, and I think we have an opportunity as a community to show, this is a moment.

Per ESPN Resourcesthe sale price for the new franchise and the Coyotes hockey assets was $1.2 billion. Meruelo, who bought the team for $300 million in 2019, will pocket $1 billion. The remaining $200 million will be distributed among the NHL's other teams.

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolschram/2024/04/18/nhl-approves-arizona-coyotes-hockey-ops-move-to-new-franchise-in-utah/

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