Utah is officially getting another major league sports franchise.

On Thursday afternoon, the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors voted to approve the sale of the Arizona Coyotes franchise to Ryan and Ashley Smith, the league announced.

The vote means the state of Utah will finally have a second franchise in what have traditionally been considered the four major sports leagues in North America — NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL — joining the Smith-owned Utah Jazz, who have been in Salt Lake City since relocating from New Orleans back in 1979.

“As everyone knows, Utah is a vibrant and thriving state, and we are thrilled to be a part of it,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “We are also delighted to welcome Ashley and Ryan Smith to the NHL family and know they will be great stewards of the game in Utah. We thank them for working so collaboratively with the League to resolve a complex situation in this unprecedented and beneficial way.”

“We are committed to building a Stanley Cup contending team and are thrilled to welcome incredible players, coaches, staff, and their families to Utah,” the Smiths said in the same statement. “Today is a great day for Utah, for hockey, and for building a legacy that will have a lasting impact for generations to come.”

How did Utah get an NHL team?

The vote brings finality to a wild week, and in reality, a wild few years of Smith working to bring an NHL team to Utah and the Coyotes struggling to remain in Arizona.

On April 10, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli first reported that the NHL was working on two versions of the Coyotes’ schedule for next season, one that had them playing home games in Arizona and one that had them calling Salt Lake City home.

Since then, the deal has moved at a rapid pace, at least as far as what has been in the public eye.

Soon after Seravalli’s story broke, reports emerged that an official announcement of relocation could come as early as Thursday, even as Coyotes ownership undertook a public push to get started on getting a new arena built in Arizona.

On April 12, multiple outlets reported that Coyotes players had been informed the move would be happening imminently, and Canadian hockey reporter Elliotte Friedman reported on social media then that there was a possibility players could head to Salt Lake City as soon as Wednesday night following their season finale, which they won 5-2 over the Edmonton Oilers to finish this season 36-41-5.

Arizona Coyotes fans sit in their seats long after the team's NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers ended, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Tempe, Ariz. The Coyotes won 5-2. Team owner Alex Meruelo agreed to sell franchise's hockey operations to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, who intends to move the team to Salt Lake City. | Ross D. Franklin

Last Saturday, Smith made his first public comment on the situation, albeit an indirect one on social media, when he endorsed the idea that an outdoor game could be played at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium as part of the NHL’s “Stadium Series.”

Then on Monday, Sportico reported that the NHL’s executive committee had approved a plan to relocate the Coyotes from Arizona to Salt Lake City. As part of the deal, the Coyotes will retain their branding in hopes of landing a new franchise in a few years should a new arena indeed get built.

Multiple outlets have reported that rather than the sale of the team being between Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo and Smith, Meruelo would sell it to the NHL, which would then sell it to Smith.

On Wednesday, Smith more directly addressed the situation at the Sports Business Journal’s World Congress of Sports. He said, “There’s no secret on what’s out there online. Normally, not everything on the internet is true, but in this case, it’s pretty true.”

Many outlets reported that the NHL’s hope was that the deal would get done prior to the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin on Saturday.

Arizona Coyotes history

While the timing of Seravalli’s initial report last week was rather random, there has been intermittent chatter for quite sometime that the Coyotes could get relocated and that Ryan Smith was heavily interested in bringing an NHL team to Salt Lake City, with a marriage of the two seeming to make sense to many.

Nearly a decade ago in 2015, the Glendale City Council in Arizona voted “to end its 15-year agreement for the Coyotes to manage and play at Gila River Arena, opting for short-term leases at a reduced rate for the city,” ESPN reported.

A series of misfires on getting an agreement for a new stadium ensued over the next several years, and in 2022 the Coyotes moved to 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, where the Arizona State Sun Devils play.

In March of 2023, Friedman reported that Smith had recently had dinner with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and that “This is one to watch.” In that same story, Friedman reported that Smith had been interested in purchasing the Pittsburgh Penguins when they were for sale in 2021.

“Obviously, that didn’t happen, 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,” Friedman wrote.

That report sparked interest in the idea of the NHL coming to Utah to grow among hockey fans in the Beehive State, and Smith posted on social media a few weeks after Friedman’s report that things were “in motion” for it to happen.

Then in May of last year, voters in Arizona voted “no” on Propositions 301, 302 and 303, which would have made way for a new arena to be built for the Coyotes in Tempe.

Immediately, NHL insiders began discussing the idea that the Coyotes could be relocated, with Salt Lake City mentioned as a possibility among other cities in the United States and Canada, but things were rather quiet for several months after that.

On April 4, however, Arizona sports talk radio host John Gambadoro reported that Meruelo had spoken to potential buyers, although the Coyotes confirmed their commitment to trying to remain in Arizona a day later.

On Thursday, Meruelo reaffirmed his commitment to bringing an NHL team back to Arizona as soon as possible.

On April 8, Smith posted on social media, “If an NHL team were to come to Utah, what should we name it?,” and he included a link to a survey created by Qualtrics, the company he founded that led to him becoming a billionaire.

Wednesday night, Coyotes fans came to Tempe from across the country to bid farewell to the franchise.

Players stayed on the ice long after the game ended signing autographs and sharing their love.

Now, with the sale and relocation of the franchise official, Utah is ready to embrace its new squad.

“This announcement is about more than bringing an NHL team to Salt Lake City — it’s a defining moment in our trajectory, becoming a catalyst for a positive vision that integrates community, connection, and more possibilities for families, residents, and visitors to experience our capital city,” Salt Lake City mayor Erin Mendenhall said. “I’m thankful for the close partnership with Ryan and Ashley Smith, and the entire (Smith Entertainment Group) team. This is the beginning of a new era that will generate exciting opportunities for our communities, amplify pride and unlock new potential in our downtown core.”