Could Arizona election results impact the NHL’s future in Utah?
Arizona voters voted no on Propositions 301, 302 and 303, which would have paved the way for a new arena for the Arizona Coyotes
Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake owner Ryan Smith recently expressed a desire to bring a National Hockey League franchise to Utah, prompting talk about whether that franchise would be an expansion team or a relocated existing one, with the Arizona Coyotes often mentioned as a team that could move.
On Tuesday, voters in Arizona voted “no” on Propositions 301, 302 and 303, which would have paved the way for a new arena to be built for the Coyotes in Tempe.
Both the team and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released statements on the election results, which cast doubt on the franchise’s future in Arizona.
“We are very disappointed Tempe voters did not approve Propositions 301, 302, and 303,” team president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said. “As Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said, it was the best sports deal in Arizona history. The Coyotes wish to thank everyone who supported our efforts and voted yes.
“So many community leaders stepped up and became our advocates and for that we are truly grateful. We also wish to thank the countless volunteers who worked so hard to try and make the Tempe Entertainment District a reality and the Tempe City Council for their support as well. While we wanted a different outcome, we remain grateful to all those who volunteered their time and talent. What is next for the franchise will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League over the coming weeks.”
Bettman’s statement was shorter but also strongly worded.
“The National Hockey League is terribly disappointed by the results of the public referenda regarding the Coyotes’ arena project in Tempe,” Bettman said. “We are going to review with the Coyotes what the options might be going forward.”
The Coyotes have struggled for a variety of reasons to get a new arena built for many years, and played this season at the 5,000-seat venue that houses the Arizona State University hockey team.
Following Tuesday’s vote, The Athletic’s Sean Gentille and Pierre LeBrun wrote, “Relocation talk had already swirled, and now it’s likely to kick into overdrive.”
They wrote that “Houston and Atlanta are, no doubt, on top of the list” of potential relocation options, but LeBrun added that “Salt Lake City is a relocation possibility if indeed the Coyotes move, which isn’t a certainly at this point yet.”
On Wednesday, St. Louis Blues reporter Andy Strickland, who has ties to Arizona, reported, “Hearing Salt Lake City appears to be the focus for the Arizona Coyotes internally among hockey ops. Obviously still in “early” stages.”
Later, however, Strickland quoted Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo as saying, “Our plan is to stay in Arizona”.
Strickland also reported that the Coyotes will remain in Arizona “at least through the 23-24 season.”
Back on March 31, Canadian hockey reporter Elliotte Friedman reported that Smith had recently met with Bettman in New York City.
“This is one to watch,” Friedman wrote, reporting that Smith was a potential bidder when the Pittsburgh Penguins were sold in late 2021.
“Obviously, that didn’t happen,” Friedman wrote of Smith getting the Penguins, “but I was told to keep his name on my radar, because he’s interested in the NHL — and the NHL is very interested in him.”
Then on April 22, Smith responded to a tweet from KSL’s Sam Farnsworth about bringing an NHL team to Utah, writing, “In motion”.
Smith’s desire to bring an NHL team to Utah comes as a coalition led by the Larry H. Miller Group is looking to bring a Major League Baseball team to the state.
There are nine markets that currently have NBA, NHL, MLB and Major League Soccer franchises:
- Washington, D.C.
- Los Angeles.
- New York City.