The National Hockey League’s (NHL) Board of Governors has approved the transfer of all of the Arizona Coyotes‘ franchise to Utah, effective from the 2024/25 season.

The franchise will be owned and operated by Smith Entertainment Group, headed by Ryan and Ashley Smith. In addition, the Board agreed to a proposal that places the Arizona Coyotes franchise inactive, with the option to reactivate it if owner Alex Meruelo constructs a new, modern facility suitable for an NHL team within five years.

Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the NHL, commented:  “As everyone knows, Utah is a vibrant and thriving state, and we are thrilled to be a part of it. We are also delighted to welcome Ashley and Ryan Smith to the NHL family and know they will be great stewards of the game in Utah. We thank them for working so collaboratively with the League to resolve a complex situation in this unprecedented and beneficial way.”

The sale follows a frustrating period for the NHL team, which has been searching for a permanent home. After relocating from Winnipeg, the franchise initially shared an arena with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Later, it moved to Glendale but eventually landed at Mullett Arena after the city of Glendale withdrew from a lease agreement.

The NHL and the players’ association expressed reluctance for the Coyotes to continue playing at the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena for a third season, which ultimately led to Meruelo deciding to sell the team.

Meruelo said: “I agree with Commissioner Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League, that it is simply unfair to continue to have our Players, coaches, hockey front office, and the NHL teams they compete against, spend several more years playing in an arena that is not suited for NHL hockey. But this is not the end for NHL hockey in Arizona.”

Under the terms of the sale, Meruelo will retain the Coyotes’ name, logo and trademark, so Smith’s group will have to rename the team. 

Part of the agreement stipulates that Arizona would receive an expansion team if a new arena is constructed within the next five years. Facilitated by the NHL, the deal involves a $200m relocation fee, which will be distributed to league owners.

Additionally, Meruelo also retains ownership of the Tucson Roadrunners, the franchise’s AHL affiliate, and hopes to move them to Mullett Arena. 

“I have negotiated the right to reactivate the team within the next five years, and have retained ownership of the beloved Coyotes name, brand and logo. I remain committed to this community and to building a first-class sports arena and entertainment district without seeking financial support from the public.”

The Smiths, who also own NBA’s Utah Jazz, bought the Coyotes’ for $1.2bn and have announced plans to rename the team in the coming months.

Ryan and Ashley Smith stated: “We are honoured to bring an NHL team to Utah and understand the responsibility we have as stewards of a new NHL franchise. 

“This is a transformative day for our state and our fans. Our intention had always been to pursue an expansion team. Commissioner Bettman conceived and proposed an ingenious plan that would allow us to acquire an NHL franchise while also helping to address and remedy an immediate need of the NHL.”

In March, the NHL extended its partnership with Caesars Entertainment, a retail and online betting company, in a multi-year agreement. The deal saw Caesars retain its role as the NHL’s sports betting and gaming partner, with the extension including provisions for online casino services and enhanced fan engagement initiatives.

Previous articleManchester City & OKX collab on limited edition shirt NFTs
Next articleIMG’s Sport 24 to broadcast EURO 2024 across flights and cruises