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NHL: Sale and transfer of Coyotes to Utah approved

The Coyotes’ 28-year stay in Arizona is officially over.

The NHL Board of Governors voted Thursday to approve the sale of the franchise to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and its transfer to Salt Lake City for the start of the 2024-2025 season.

The amount of the sale is $1.2 billion, according to ESPN.

The team is scheduled to play its home games at the Delta Center, home of the Utah Jazz. The arena was the scene of hockey matches at the 2002 Olympic Games.

“We have publicly expressed our interest in the NHL,” Ryan Smith told the Associated Press. We must have been saying for two years that Utah can be a great hockey market. When you look at all the demographic statistics, it only talked about the possible return of the Olympic Games. But it all makes sense. ”

This may not be the final death of the Coyotes. In its press release, the NHL is not talking about relocation, but rather the creation of a new franchise in Utah and the pausing of the one in Arizona.

The agreement approved by the governors’ office stipulates that the Arizona team and its owner Alex Meruelo transfer their hockey assets to the new Utah franchise.

The Coyotes franchise will therefore become inactive, but the board of directors approved a plan that gives Meruelo and the Coyotes the right to reactivate the franchise if they completely build “a new, state-of-the-art facility suitable for an NHL team.” ‘in five years’.

Meruelo will continue his work in Arizona in the hope of purchasing and developing a plot of land north of Phoenix.

Meruelo also remains owner of the Tucson Roadrunners, an American Hockey League farm club, and hopes to move them to Mullett Arena, the Coyotes’ temporary home at Arizona State University for the past two seasons. He plans to repay the $1 billion once he secures an expansion team.

He will also retain the rights to the trademark, the Coyotes name and their logo, meaning Smith will have to rename the team.

“We’ll start with ‘Utah’ on the jersey and we’ll figure out a logo and everything else. But it’s a one-way ticket, Smith said. You only have to do this once. I think with this timeline, the league and we are more comfortable. We will move forward with the transfer and will make the name known in due course. ”

An eventful stay in Arizona

The Coyotes’ history has been marked by modest results on the ice and poor management by multiple owners.

The sale of the team ends their long saga of finding a new home.

After relocating from Winnipeg, the franchise shared an arena with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, before moving to Glendale. For the past two seasons, they played at Mullett Arena, an arena with a capacity of only 4,600, after being unable to renew their lease with the city of Glendale to play at Gila River Arena.

Meruelo has vehemently reiterated that he is not interested in selling the team, although he has had several offers since he bought the team in 2019. When an auction for the coveted land north of Phoenix was postponed until June, the Coyotes had no guarantee that an agreement for a new arena would be concluded.

As the league and Players’ Association (NHLPA) were hesitant to see the team play in a 500-seat arena for a third consecutive season, Meruelo decided to sell the team and turn his attention to building an arena and the arrival of an expansion team.

“I agree with the commissioner and the league that it is simply unfair to require our players, our coaches and our hockey operations (…) to play for several more years in an arena that does not is not made for NHL hockey,” Meruelo said in a statement.

The Coyotes were formed for the 1996-97 season with the relocation of the Winnipeg Jets. The Coyotes have made the playoffs just once in the last 12 seasons.

The Coyotes played their last game in Arizona on Wednesday, a 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. The players celebrated on the ice with team employees. Some handed their sticks to supporters, who sang to them of their love.

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