The NHL Is Coming to Utah: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Delta Center

Getty Delta Center, Salt Lake City

After a whirlwind week of events, the NHL is officially headed to Utah.

The league announced Thursday that the NHL’s Board of Governors had approved the establishment of a franchise in Utah that will be owned and controlled by Smith Entertainment Group (SEG), led by Ryan and Ashley Smith.

Per ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, the Board unanimously approved the sale of the team formerly known as the Arizona Coyotes and its existing hockey assets to SEG for $1.2 billion. In doing so, the Board also rendered the Coyotes franchise inactive, with a right to reactivate if owner Alex Meruelo has fully constructed a suitable NHL arena within five years.

The Utah team will play at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, a facility the Smiths own and which is also home to the NBA‘s Utah Jazz. The new franchise will take the Coyotes’ place in the NHL’s Central Division, leaving the league’s Conference and Division alignment otherwise unchanged.

The End of an Era in Arizona – at Least for Now

The Coyotes played their final game in Arizona on April 17, a 5-2 win over the playoff-bound Edmonton Oilers. It was an emotional night for Coyotes players, team personnel and fans, but Meruelo maintained in a statement the following day that hockey’s days in the desert were far from over:

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. 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.

Meruelo and his business staff will remain in Arizona to focus on securing land for a new arena and bringing the NHL back to the desert. Meruelo announced his commitment to winning the auction for a 95-acre parcel of land in north Phoenix, which is set for June 27, and to “develop the land into an unrivaled sports, lifestyle and entertainment district without taxpayer funding.”

Additionally, Meruelo confirmed during an interview on The Burns & Gambo Show that he plans to move the Tucson Roadrunners – the American Hockey League franchise he owns that is currently the Coyotes’ minor-league affiliate – to Mullett Arena beginning next season.

NHL’s Utah Franchise Will Start from Scratch in 2024-25

According to Kaplan, Meruelo received $1 billion in the sale, and the extra $200 million will be split among the rest of the NHL teams. Meruelo will maintain the name, intellectual property and historical records of the Coyotes, which will now be considered a defunct franchise.

“The Coyotes franchise is transferring its hockey assets (including its full reserve list, roster of players and draft picks, and its hockey operations department) to Utah,” the NHL posted on Instagram. “Utah is starting as an entirely new franchise. The history of the Coyotes will stay behind.”

The sale of the team puts an end to the Coyotes’ years-long search for a permanent home, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman remains committed to the Phoenix market. As such, Meruelo will have a five-year window in which he can try to build an arena and bring an NHL team to Arizona for an expected price tag of $1 billion.

“The NHL’s belief in Arizona has never wavered,” Bettman said in the announcement of the sale. “We thank Alex Meruelo for his commitment to the franchise and Arizona, and we fully support his ongoing efforts to secure a new home in the desert for the Coyotes. We also want to acknowledge the loyal hockey fans of Arizona, who have supported their team with dedication for nearly three decades while growing the game.”

Several Details Yet to Be Finalized Amid Rushed Sale & Relocation

The Delta Center still isn’t completely NHL-ready, but SEG has said it will work on improvements over the summer to outfit the arena for hockey, including building a hockey-specific locker room. According to Kaplan, the Delta Center will have 12,000 unobstructed seats for hockey games next season – more than double the capacity of 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on Arizona State University’s campus, where the Coyotes played for the past two seasons – and SEG will work to expand after that.

The NHL said that the Utah team’s name and colors were “coming soon,” but ESPN’s Greg Wyshinski reported that applications were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this week for trademarks on five different team names – Utah Blizzard, Utah Venom, Utah Fury, Utah HC and Utah Hockey Club.

Smith has not ruled out the possibility of the team playing with a temporary name and logo for the 2024-25 season. He did confirm to’s Nick’s Cotsonika, however, that “Utah” – not “Salt Lake” – will be on the front of the jerseys next season.

“It will 100 percent be ‘Utah,’ and then it will be ‘Utah Something,’ obviously,” Smith told Cotsonika. “I don’t think given this timeline that we’re going to have time — or nor should we rush with everything else that’s going on — to go force what that is in the next three months.”

In the meantime, SEG has contracted with Doubleday & Cartwright – an independent creative studio that has worked on brand identity with pro sports teams and companies like Apple and Nike – to help the team determine its name, logos and colors.

“So, we’ll start with ‘Utah’ on the jersey, and we’ll figure out the logo and everything else and what it is that we are,” Smith told Cotsonika. “But that’s a one-way door. You get to do it once. And with this timeline, I think both the League feels better and we feel better to just run the process, and then we’ll drop it when we drop it.”

The lack of a name, logo and colors doesn’t appear to have diminished the enthusiasm of Salt Lake City locals about their new NHL team. Just over four hours after the establishment of the new franchise was announced, Smith posted on X that 11,000 season ticket deposits had already been received.

The Smiths and Bettman will host a press conference at the Delta Center at 5 p.m. MT on April 19 to celebrate the awarding of a new NHL team to Utah. A livestream of the event will be available across NHL properties, including / NHL App, NHL Network, and the NHL YouTube channel.

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