Arizona Coyotes: What to know about their potential move and the future likelihood for hockey in Arizona

The Arizona Coyotes have been the topic of conversation in the hockey world lately, as the team, per reports, is getting ready to relocate to Utah after a decades-long stint in the Phoenix area.

Here's what to know about the potential relocation of Arizona's NHL team, and what this means for the future of hockey in Arizona.

What's going on?

According to sources with the Associated Press, the Coyotes will likely be sold to the person who currently owns the Utah Jazz, Ryan Smith, via a purported $1 billion transaction that will first see the NHL buying the Coyotes' hockey operations from the Coyotes' current owner, Alex Meruelo.

Afterward, the AP reported that the team's hockey operations would be sold to Smith. The relocated team is expected to start playing in Utah next season.

What's included in the sale?

The purported sale to Smith, according to the AP, includes the team's players, coaches, and staff members.

What's NOT included?

Meruelo, according to the AP, will maintain the Coyotes name, logo and trademarks.

This also means that when Coyotes' hockey operations move to Utah, they will have to play under a different name.

When will the purported deal be announced?

The sale, according to the AP, is expected to happen at some point between the team's final game on April 17 and the start of the playoffs on April 20.

How many pro sports teams do we have in Arizona?

Besides the Coyotes, there are four other professional sports teams in Arizona.

The teams include the Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB), the Arizona Cardinals (NFL), the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA) and the Phoenix Suns (NBA).

All the teams listed above play in the Phoenix area.

So, is this the end of hockey in Arizona?

Arizona Coyotes

From what the purported agreement looks like, this might not be the end of hockey in the Grand Canyon State, but that is dependent on a number of things happening.

Firstly, according to the AP, the agreement includes a provision that allows Meruelo to maintain the business operations of the team, as he tries to move forward with plans for a new arena in North Phoenix.

The agreement also states that should Meruelo manage to build an arena within a five-year deadline, a provision in the deal will allow Arizona to get an expansion team. Should that happen, Meruelo will pay back the $1 billion and go ahead with building the team.

So, how's the new arena plan going?

The new arena plans in North Phoenix came months after voters in Tempe rejected three ballot measures that, as a whole, would have facilitated the construction of an entertainment district in the East Valley city that also includes a new hockey arena. The plan in North Phoenix also came after a plan was floated to relocate the team to the former site of Fiesta Mall in Mesa.

The plan in North Phoenix, however, has come under rather intense criticism at one point from Scottsdale's mayor, who wrote, in an open letter, that the proposed venue "was presented without mention of market demand for a new entertainment venue disguised as a hockey arena, or congested highway access, or questionable arena zoning entitlement."

"The glitzy proposal was portrayed as the last gasp to keep hockey in Arizona," Mayor David Ortega wrote.

Regardless, the AP notes that, based on current reality, there will be no hockey team in Arizona for at least the next several years.

I thought the team was committed to Phoenix. Why is this happening?

Arizona - MASTERPLAN - 2

Renderings of the Tempe Entertainment District, including a new arena for the Arizona Coyotes. The plans were rejected by Tempe voters via a referendum in 2023.

According to the AP, the Coyotes, no matter the ownership group, have insisted the franchise is here to stay, even building a marketing campaign around the phrase.

Meruelo's group has a potential line on a tract of land to build an arena in North Phoenix, but the auction for it got pushed back until June. The NHL and its players' union have been hesitant to have the team keep playing at the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on Arizona State University's campus.

With no guarantees the land deal will go through, the AP reports that Meruelo didn't want the players to continue playing in an arena that's not up to NHL standards.

How many cities have lost an NHL franchise prior to this?

The website lists a number of cities that, either through a team relocation or a team going out of business, have lost their NHL teams.

The cities include Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Hamilton, Hartford, Kansas City, Bloomington, Minn. (which is near Minneapolis), Montreal, the New York City area, Oakland, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Quebec City, St. Louis, Toronto, and Winnipeg.

According to the current NHL roster of teams, there are current NHL teams in Denver, Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, and Winnipeg. There are also current NHL teams located near the home of defunct NHL teams in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, New York City area, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

What are Coyotes officials saying about the potential sale?

On April 13, Meruelo issued a statement following what he said was "a lot of discussion in recent days about the future of the Arizona Coyotes."

The statement was in all caps, but in it, Meruelo did not categorically deny the rumors, and wrote that "we are focused on a myriad of issues that are unresolved, and therefore we are unable to make any official public comments at this time."

The full statement reads:

"There has been a lot of discussion in recent days about the future of the Arizona Coyotes. I understand and empathize with the concerns of our fans, our community, our partners, our players, our front office, and all of our team members. I hope to address these issues as soon as I am able to speak on the topics.

We are focused on a myriad of issues that are unresolved, and therefore we are unable to make any official public comments at this time. However, you have my commitment that I am going to speak on all of these issues and publicly address all of your concerns as promptly as possible."

What are fans saying?

We spoke with some Coyotes fans on April 15 about the potential move.

"It’s kind of sad to hear that they're not going to have a hockey team anymore. I also work over here, so it's kind of cool having the fans come for that event as well," said Nick Truscelli.

"We were just devastated," said Coda Soberanes, whose son, Cayden, is a big Coyotes fan.