Will Utah NHL’s team keep Coyotes coach and GM? New owner addresses personnel and other early questions

The Delta Center hosted an introductory press conference Friday evening with Smith, his wife Ashley, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) SEG owner Ryan Smith laughs during a press conference announcing a new National Hockey League team owned by Smith Entertainment Group at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 19, 2024.

In a packed room inside the Delta Center — a room that included state leaders and sports figures ranging from Gov. Spencer Cox to Utah Jazz executive Danny Ainge — Ryan Smith welcomed a new NHL team to Utah as he sat between his wife Ashley and league commissioner Gary Bettman.

The arena had already been transformed from the Utah Jazz basketball court an ice rink with NHL logos on it, sending a message to everyone in the room that not only was the Smith Entertainment Group willing to get a team to the Beehive State, but perhaps more than ready.

The 2024-25 season starts this fall, which leaves just a few months for the new Utah team to move everyone to the market, settle on a team name, and figure out a host of other logistics.

The Smiths and Bettman addressed some of those questions during an introductory news conference Friday.

What will happen to the Coyotes general manager and coach?

Smith strongly suggested there are no plans to replace general manager Bill Armstrong and coach André Tourigny.

Since we’re only acquiring the people, we need the people,” Smith said. “We need everyone. We had a great conversation with them all yesterday.”

How does Smith view the potential raising of sales tax to fund his downtown revitalization project?

The Utah Jazz owner repeatedly pushed back on the idea that his purchase of an NHL team was solely about what he would do with the Delta Center to accommodate a professional hockey and basketball team. But he said that if he wants his vision to come to fruition, he’ll need help.

“It’s going to take everyone,” Smith said. “It’s going to take the county. It’s going to take the city, from a tax standpoint. But we’ll generate a lot of revenue. And I think, down the road, everyone will look back and go, ‘Wow, in a time when we needed to revitalize, reimagine, we invested in it worked out.’”

Why did the NHL commissioner choose Utah?

Bettman started the event with a telling statement: “The NHL in Utah — what a great ring that has to it.”

And throughout the news conference, he detailed why he went with Ryan and Ashley Smith to bring a franchise to Utah rather than the several other cities in the United States and Canada that publicly expressed interest in acquiring a franchise.

The most telling — and perhaps pointed — moment came when Bettman was asked what lessons other markets could learn from the Smiths if they’d like an NHL team in the future.

“Be imaginative, be daring, be committed, have the resources available and shoot straight with us, and you’ll engage with us,” Bettman said. “You’ve got to be prepared to go through the process.

“We look at market, we look at arena, we look at ownership and we look at will the team in a certain place make the league stronger,” Bettman continued. “Utah checks all those boxes.”