Arizona Coyotes players informed team is moving to Salt Lake City next season: reports

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Speculation, rumors and uncertainty about whether the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes will move away from the desert got much more clarity Friday night.

Amid reports that the NHL was working on a contingency plan to move the franchise, members of the team have reportedly been informed they are headed to Utah.

ESPN says general manager Bill Armstrong addressed the team on Friday, telling them the NHL had facilitated a sale to Ryan and Ashley Smith, the owners of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, and they will play in Salt Lake City beginning next season.

Coyotes logo

The Arizona Coyotes kachina logo at center ice before the NHL hockey game between the St. Louis Blues and the Arizona Coyotes on October 18, 2021, at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.  (Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The team is set to play at the Delta Center, where the Jazz play, but hockey-centric renovations are necessary for the team to stay there long-term.

The Coyotes have seemingly been on shaky ground since the team’s former majority owner, Jerry Moyes, drove the franchise into bankruptcy in 2009. The team appeared to gain some stability when they played at the then-Gila River Arena, which was located just outside of Phoenix in Glendale. 

However, the city eventually pulled out of a lease agreement in 2015 and the Coyotes lease was terminated after the 2021-22 season. Last May, voters rejected the franchise’s plan for a multi-billion dollar entertainment district in Tempe.

View of an Arizona Coyotes jersey

Oct 20, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; View of an Arizona Coyotes logo on a jersey worn by a member of the team during the third period at Bell Centre. (David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports)

The team has been playing at Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University since the start of the 2022-23 season, but the facility can only seat 5,000 spectators.

The Coyotes were looking to stay within the Phoenix area last year, identifying six locations for a potential new arena.

After Ryan Smith earlier this week solicited suggestions for a team name, word emerged Wednesday that the league has been working on contingency plans in case the Coyotes move this summer.

General view outside of Mullett Arena before the NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets on October 28, 2022, in Tempe, Arizona. The Coyotes will use Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena for the next three seasons while a permanent arena deal is finalized.  (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Smith has government backing to make improvements on the Utah arena, ESPN notes – a recent bill passed to help fund a renovated entertainment district in anticipation of professional hockey coming to the city.

Fox News’ Chantz Martin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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