Smith Entertainment Group held a joint press conference with the NHL at the Delta Center Friday evening following news of the Arizona Coyotes’ move to Utah.

SEG owners Ryan and Ashley Smith were joined by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss bringing hockey to Salt Lake City and answer questions from media members.

“The NHL in Utah. What a great ring that has to it,” Bettman said. “We, the NHL, are thrilled to be here in Utah. We couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to have a team here in Salt Lake City.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson all spoke at the event as well.

Here are some of the notable remarks made at Friday’s press conference.

Gary Bettman on moving the Arizona Coyotes to Utah

“We are grateful that we’ve been able to craft a solution that brings a team here to Salt Lake City, but just as importantly fixes an issue we had. We’re actually making the NHL and our game stronger.

“On a personal level, I can’t wait to come to games here — and steal a couple of days skiing, without anybody knowing about it. ... This is just a great place to be. You can feel the energy and excitement — it’s palpable.”

Ashley Smith, co-founder of Smith Entertainment Group, speaks as she joins her husband, Ryan Smith, co-founder and chairman of Smith Entertainment Group, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at a press conference at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City to announce that the NHL would be coming to Utah on Friday, April 18, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Ashley Smith on entering the world of hockey

“We are up to the task of being stewards for this team. ... We want to bring a Stanley Cup to Utah, obviously. We want to continue creating the greatest fan experience in sports. ... We’re ready for the challenge.

“... We all get to come together around basketball and we all get to come together around hockey. What a great thing that it’s just more love and more unifying. That’s what I’m most excited about.”

Ryan Smith on the statewide support for bringing the NHL to Utah

“I’ve never seen so many Republicans and Democrats and religious leaders and educational leaders all on the same page before. It’s emotional. It’s incredible how much people care about this state.

“... Don’t expect perfection, but we’re gonna get it right. We’re gonna need everybody’s help. (The team) is a community asset — it’s for the community.”

Gov. Cox on bringing another professional sports team to Utah

“The Jazz came here in 1979 because people took a chance and people came together. This doesn’t happen by accident. We had our first call with the commissioner about three months ago … and didn’t know that this would be an option. But there were a thousand ways for this not to happen, a thousand ways for it to go wrong, and it almost did go wrong. So many people came together to make this happen.

“... None of this happens without Ashley and Ryan Smith. You have to have people willing to be the leaders, to place the bet, to sacrifice to make this happen.”

Ryan Smith on the Delta Center hosting both NBA and NHL action

“I received a plan that gets us to about 17,500 inside our arena that does not compromise the basketball experience. … We’re using new technology to figure out specifically behind the hoops/goals to be able to turn from hockey to basketball, and back and forth.

“... We plan to open next season with a capacity of 16,200, with 12,000 of those seats having perfect sightlines.”

Ryan Smith on renovating the Delta Center for hockey rather than building a new arena away from downtown

“It’s pretty easy to build on a blank piece of land down south,” he said. “That was where my head went. SEG does a lot better on 100 acres and 5,000 housing units than it does on two city blocks ... “Our elected officials, I know you guys get dragged every way possible, but you guys literally stopped us in the middle of the process and said (the Jazz and NHL team) both have to be downtown.


“... We really aren’t in a position downtown to just find a lot of land to stage and build a new arena. You see how hard it is for the Church to rebuild what they’re doing, how much land that takes up.”

Gary Bettman on what other prospective NHL owners can learn from the Smiths’ approach

“Be imaginative, be daring, be committed, have the resources, and shoot straight with us. We’ll try together to imagine the impossible.”

The Delta Center ice prior to Ryan Smith, co-founder and chairman of Smith Entertainment Group, Ashley Smith, co-founder of Smith Entertainment Group, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gathering in Salt Lake City to announce that the NHL would be coming to Utah on Friday, April 18, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Ryan Smith on the rapid speed of the acquisition process

“This is a tight turn, but when these things come along, you don’t blink. We’ll figure it out. There are so many people here who will help.”

Ryan Smith on the impressive initial demand for season tickets

“I told the players we’ll get everyone in the first year, but it’s your job to keep them here.”

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