Coyotes’ move to Salt Lake City elicits opposing responses in 2 cities

Arizona Coyotes Chairman and Governor Alex Meruelo, left, speaks as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, right, listens as they hold a news conference regarding a provision for Arizona to get an expansion team if a new arena is built within the next five years with the announcement of the current team relocating to Salt Lake City, Friday, April 19, 2024, in Phoenix. The Coyotes are officially headed to Salt Lake City after NHL Board of Governors voted Thursday to approve a $1.2 billion sale from Meruelo to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, with Meruelo retaining the Coyotes' name, logo and trademark. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sat next to the former Arizona Coyotes owner in a downtown Phoenix hotel meeting room, trying to put a positive spin on the funeral for a franchise.

Late Friday afternoon, Bettman will sit next to the new Coyotes owner in Salt Lake City to bask in the excitement of the league’s newest city and a fan base that had been itching for another team to join the NBA’s Utah Jazz.


One day, two drastically different news conferences for the same hockey team.

“If you look back from the perspective over the last three decades, the NHL support for hockey in Arizona has been unwavering, to say the least,” Bettman said Friday in Phoenix. “And for anybody who’s been on that journey with us, there have been countless times when we could have made another decision and we didn’t. And so I hope everybody understands that this is a place that we believe hockey works.”

But only under the right circumstances.

Hockey worked in the desert for 27 years, albeit with some major potholes along the way.

In the Coyotes’ 28th year since moving from Winnipeg, those ruts derailed the franchise and sent it to Utah.

His hand forced by self-inflicted and out-of-his-control circumstances, Alex Meruelo sold the Coyotes to the Smith Entertainment Group on Thursday, a deal approved unanimously by the NHL Board of Governors. The $1.2 billion deal gives SEG owner Ryan Smith control of the franchise’s hockey operations, while Meruelo will keep the name and maintain business operations.

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