Sources: Coyotes players told team is relocating to Utah

April 12, 2024, 9:49 PM

Arizona Coyotes players were informed Friday that the team is relocating to Utah, sources told ESPN, confirming a report by PHNX Sports. 

Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong met with the players ahead of their game against the Edmonton Oilers to confirm what had been rumored all week: that the NHL is working to facilitate a sale to Ryan and Ashley Smith, owners of the  Utah Jazz. The Coyotes will begin playing there next season.

The NHL and Smith's group have been working on a deal, but sources told ESPN on Friday night that nothing was done yet, and there was plenty of work to do before the deal was finalized.

An announcement is expected next week, at the conclusion of the NHL regular season, sources said. Coyotes players and staff members will be invited to visit Salt Lake City after their season finale to check out the city and facilities.

Coyotes players were not available after Friday night's 3-2 overtime win over Edmonton, and coach Andre Tourigny said he would take questions about the game only.

"This team has been through a lot of adversity," Tourigny said. "The first time the rumor came around, we didn't manage it well and we shoot ourselves in the foot, went on a 14-game losing streak. Our guys are showing how proud they are, how much they care for each other and how much they want to have success with each other. It's cool to feel that, cool to see them cheering each other and pushing in the same direction like that."

The plan is for the team to play at the Delta Center, which is owned by Smith and is also home to the NBA's Jazz. However, sources told ESPN that the NHL has made it clear to the Smiths that a hockey-specific upgrade is needed at the Delta Center in order to become the team's permanent home.

Smith already has government support. A bill was passed in the Utah State Senate to help fund a renovated entertainment district downtown in anticipation of an NHL franchise. The bill already has approval from Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. 

Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo has been on a years-long quest to find a permanent home for his club, which has been temporarily playing its home games at Arizona State's Mullett Arena. Meruelo has eyed a plot in the Phoenix area and intends to win a state-run land auction for it on June 27. However, according to sources, the NHL grew skeptical of the timeline and decided it needed a better solution for next season.

The NHL is interested in returning to Arizona in the future and will leave the door open to Meruelo to own the team.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.