NHL, Jazz owner making ‘significant and meaningful progress’ in bringing team to Utah

The development comes just a few days after Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith asked people for NHL team name ideas.

(Ryan Smith via X) Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith posted this rendering of the proposed downtown sports and entertainment district on X on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

The National Hockey League coming to Utah seems to be inching toward becoming a reality, per a report published Wednesday by the hockey news site Daily Faceoff.

The league and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith have made “significant and meaningful progress” on a deal that would include the Arizona Coyotes being sold and relocating to Salt Lake City, per the report. Arizona players have been informed that a “verbal” agreement exists, the report states.

The Daily Faceoff report also states that if the Coyotes relocate to Utah, Smith would pay upwards of $1.2 billion, some of which is a relocation fee distributed to other NHL owners. The team would then temporarily play at the Delta Center until a new arena was built in Salt Lake City.

Smith Entertainment Group declined to comment on the reports Wednesday.

The potential deal that would bring an NHL team to Salt Lake City is a development that comes hours after the Daily Faceoff reported that the NHL has a contingency plan in place in the event a team is relocated to Salt Lake City.

The league is reportedly working on two schedules for the 2024-25 season simultaneously: one if the Arizona Coyotes stay in the league, and another if the Coyotes move to Utah. This development comes just a few days after Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith posted a survey on X asking for suggestions on what to name a team if one were to come to Utah.

The making of new schedules does not indicate a move to Utah is a done deal. Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo is trying to win an auction on June 27 that would give him the land required to build a new hockey arena and adjacent entertainment district in the Phoenix area.

Scottsdale mayor David Ortega initially balked at the proposed $3 billion entertainment district that would be built near his city, saying it is “not feasible, or welcome,” per the Arizona Republic. But he has since walked back those comments, saying he supports the project so long as traffic doesn’t enter Scottsdale.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last month that time is running out for the Coyotes to figure out their arena situation. But even if the Coyotes’ latest land bid fails, it may be too late for the team to move anywhere in time for next season. When asked if the league would be able to figure something out that quickly if Meruelo doesn’t win the land auction, Daly said, “Probably not,” and that “it’s getting late.”

The Utah Legislature passed a bill that would earmark $1 billion of taxpayer money for a new NHL arena. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called it “truly transformative” for the city. The plan to build a new downtown arena is supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And while some people think investing that much time and money is a waste, others feel an NHL team in the Beehive State will be immensely popular. Utah Grizzlies fans that spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune in February are supportive of a team in the state.