On April 18, NHL officials announced a significant development: the relocation of the team to Utah, slated to commence with the 2024-2025 season following its sale to Jazz owner Ryan Smith.

As stated in the NHL’s release, “Effective at closing, the approved transactions will result in the Coyotes’ franchise transferring the totality of its existing hockey assets – including its full Reserve List, roster of Players and draft picks, and its Hockey Operations Department – to the Utah franchise.”

The statement expressed gratitude to Alex Meruelo, the former owner of the Coyotes, for his dedication to the franchise and Arizona. The NHL affirmed its support for Meruelo’s ongoing endeavors to secure a new home in the desert for the Coyotes, acknowledging the unwavering support of Arizona’s hockey enthusiasts over the past three decades.

Meruelo, in his statement included in the NHL’s release, echoed sentiments shared by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league, expressing agreement on the need to discontinue playing in an arena unsuitable for NHL hockey.

Meanwhile, a report from Tucson television station KOLD-TV reveals Meruelo’s plans to relocate the Tucson Roadrunners, former AHL affiliates of the Coyotes, to Tempe.

Phoenix has now joined the ranks of cities that have bid farewell to a professional sports franchise team.

Following the sale of the team, Phoenix has now become part of a distinguished list of cities in both the United States and Canada that have experienced the departure of NHL franchises. Notable cities on this roster include Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Hamilton, Hartford, Kansas City, Bloomington (located near Minneapolis), Montreal, the New York City area, Oakland, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Quebec City, St. Louis, Toronto, and Winnipeg.

Presently, the NHL boasts operational teams in Denver, Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, and Winnipeg. Notably, cities such as the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, New York City area, and the San Francisco Bay Area have welcomed NHL teams after the disbandment of their initial franchises. This resurgence in other regions offers optimism for the potential return of an NHL team to the Valley in the future.

 

The team encountered significant challenges during its tenure in Arizona

This recent development signifies the conclusion of a significant chapter for the team in Arizona, marking, for the time being, the cessation of professional hockey within the state.

Originally hailing from Winnipeg, situated in Canada’s Manitoba province, the team commenced its journey as the Winnipeg Jets before relocating to the Phoenix area ahead of the 1996-1997 NHL season.

It’s noteworthy that while there exists a current NHL team known as the Winnipeg Jets, it is pertinent to mention that this team was relocated to the Canadian city from Atlanta, where it was formerly recognized as the Thrashers.

Over the past two seasons, the team has been noted to have played at Mullett Arena in Tempe, a modest venue boasting a seating capacity of 500, nestled within Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. Initially, plans were in place for the construction of a new stadium and entertainment precinct in Tempe. However, these ambitions were dashed following the failure of a municipal referendum.

In light of these setbacks, officials associated with the Coyotes have proposed the establishment of a new stadium in North Phoenix. Nevertheless, these propositions faced vehement opposition at one juncture from the Mayor of Scottsdale, who penned an open letter expressing concerns regarding the proposed venue. Mayor David Ortega articulated that the proposed stadium “was presented without mention of market demand for a new entertainment venue disguised as a hockey arena, or congested highway access, or questionable arena zoning entitlement.”

Mayor Ortega further emphasized, “The glitzy proposal was portrayed as the last gasp to keep hockey in Arizona.”

 

There remains a possibility that hockey may once again grace the arenas of Arizona in the future

 

Depending on future developments, there exists the possibility of a resurgence of professional hockey in Arizona. Meruelo emphasized that the sale does not signify the conclusion of NHL hockey in Arizona.

“I have secured the option to revive the team within the next five years, and have retained ownership of the cherished Coyotes name, brand, and logo. My dedication to this community remains unwavering, and I am committed to constructing a top-tier sports arena and entertainment district without relying on public financial assistance,” stated a segment of the announcement.