Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy didn’t elaborate too much when he was recently asked about what it would be like to hypothetically share a building with an NHL team next season.

“Hypothetically, I assume we won’t play on the same nights,” he said with a smirk and a laugh. “So yeah, it sounds fun.”

But Hardy’s star player and native of Finland, Lauri Markkanen, who grew up playing hockey outside with his friends and siblings all the time, is more than happy to be welcoming a team to Utah.

“Excited,” Markkanen said. “I love to go to the games any time I can on the road and I’ve been following for a long time ... So it would be great.”

Markkanen tried playing hockey on a team when he was in elementary school, but told his mom that it took too long to put the gear on and that he would rather be outside. So organized hockey wasn’t a part of Markkanen’s childhood — growing to 7 feet tall also helped to push him toward basketball — but living in Finland, there was no way to not be a fan of the game.

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“I always liked to be a goalie,” Markkanen said. “So if I didn’t grow this tall, I would have loved to be hockey goalie.”

You might think that being a lifelong fan of the game and having lived in the United States since 2016 — when he played at the University of Arizona — that Markkanen would already have an NHL allegiance that would preclude him from becoming a fan of the team that is officially relocating to Utah. But, Markkanen’s NHL fandom is up for grabs.

“Right now? No,” he said when asked if he was a fan of a particular team. “I have a couple friends played for Nashville, so I was rooting for them for a long time. But they’re retired, got traded, don’t play there anymore. So currently, I’m a free agent.”

On Thursday, the NHL board of governors voted to approve the establishment of a team in Utah that will be owned by Smith Entertainment Group, which is led by Ryan Smith and is the same group that owns the Utah Jazz. The new NHL franchise in Utah will begin playing at the Delta Center in the 2024-25 season.

Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith talks with former Jazz player and current Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert after the Utah Jazz fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 16, 2024. Minnesota won 119-100. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News