Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

The Arizona Coyotes relocate to Salt Lake City, bringing NHL to Utah

Rachel Choi
Illustration Rachel Choi

The Arizona Coyotes will be relocating to Salt Lake City, Utah. Owners of the National Basketball Association’s Utah Jazz, Ryan and Ashley Smith, paid a hefty price of $1.2 billion to acquire the team from its current owner, Alex Meruelo.

The team was founded in 1972 and started as the original Winnipeg Jets. Then they became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996 until 2014 when the team was sold to new owners and the name was changed to the Arizona Coyotes. While they have not won a Stanley Cup championship, they hold numerous NHL awards and honors as well as team records. 

Back in January, the Smith Entertainment Group formally requested an expansion of the NHL into Utah. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the request at the NHL All-Star Game in February.

“The Utah expression of interest has been the most aggressive and has carried a lot of energy with it,” Bettman said in an interview at the NHL All-Star Game.

Ryan Smith owns the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, home of the Utah Jazz and future Utah NHL team. Smith will renovate the arena accordingly to accommodate an ice hockey team. 

“Our goal is NHL in Utah. And I’ll leave the rest up to Gary,” Smith said in an interview with ESPN. 

According to ESPN, Meruelo will receive $1 billion and the rest of the NHL owners will split between $200 million and $300 million as a relocation fee paid by Smith. 

The Coyotes currently have 13 players who are under contract for next season. They have three unrestricted free agents who have the option to re-sign with the Coyotes or head elsewhere. There are also seven restricted free agents who are in need of new contracts. Every NHL franchise will face personnel decisions in the off-season.

Coyotes’ left wing, Clayton Keller, addressed relocation rumors in the past and has not let it distract him.

“We’ve just tried to focus on hockey and since I’ve played in Arizona, there’s always been a lot of rumors, so we try to do as best we can to try and focus on hockey,” Keller said in an interview with ESPN. “It was definitely in our heads. You can say it’s not a distraction, but buddies, family, people are always texting and keep putting it in your head.”

Keller signed a $57,200,00 million eight-year contract with the Coyotes on Sept. 4, 2019, including a $10 million signing bonus. 

In addition to personnel decisions being made, a new team name is in the works. Smith took to his following on X to ask fans for their suggestions on a new name for the team. 

“If an NHL team were to come to Utah, what should we name it?” the post read with a link to a survey. 

Smith’s post generated over 3 million views and over 1,000 survey responses. Name suggestions included the following: the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, the Utah Blizzard, or the Utah Yeti. However, there are questions being raised about winter-themed names being too close to Utah’s neighboring NHL team, the Colorado Avalanche. 

The sale was finalized on April 17, making this the first time a team will relocate since 2011, when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg. The Coyotes will be missed in Arizona but Keller remains hopeful they’ll return. 

“[Arizona] means everything. I grew up here, I played my whole career here,” Keller said. “There’s so many great people that are in this organization, great teammates, I could go down the list of all the people who made sacrifices for us to perform. It’s definitely tough and hopefully the NHL will be back here in a couple years.”

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About the Contributor
Rylie Burns
Rylie Burns, Layout Editor & Assistant Sports Editor
Rylie Burns (she/her) is a freshman journalism major from Danvers, MA, and currently serves as the layout editor for the Berkeley Beacon. Rylie wrote for her high school newspaper and served as editor-in-chief of the yearbook. She is also an active participant in WEBN both on and off the camera. Other than reporting, Rylie enjoys dancing, choreographing, reading, and looking at pictures of her goldendoodle, Brodie.

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