What’s Behind the Coyotes’ Move to Salt Lake City?
NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Arizona Coyotes
Apr 17, 2024; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona Coyotes fans in the crowd hold signs for the players following the game against the Edmonton Oilers at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes’ finances have taken several hits these past few decades. Occasionally, a new owner acquires the franchise, but none seems to know how to get the team back on track. Well, until now, at least. They’ve finally decided to shake things up by packing their bags and hitting the road—destination: Salt Lake City, Utah.

That’s right: the National Hockey League (NHL) franchise recently announced its impending relocation. The team’s owner, Alex Meruelo, plans to sell it to Utah Jazz team owner Ryan Smith for $1.2 billion.

Financial Struggles and Unstable Ownership

Unfortunately, the Coyotes’ financial woes have been a never-ending saga. Despite being based in a central metropolitan area like Phoenix, the team has always struggled to generate enough revenue to keep the lights on.

It’s been a revolving door of ownership groups, each more disappointing than the last. No leader could provide the deep pockets and stability needed to sustain a professional sports team in a non-traditional hockey market. A few have made matters even worse. We all remember, for example, how Jerry Moyes plunged the franchise into bankruptcy in 2009.

With this move, the Coyotes seem to say ‘no more’ to financial struggles. For one, hockey betting is popular in Salt Lake City, so the team can increase revenue by signing better sponsorship deals.

Diminishing Fan Support

Their financial struggles aside, the Coyotes have also been fighting an uphill battle to cultivate a dedicated hockey fanbase in the Phoenix area. Despite the region’s significant population, they’ve consistently pulled low attendance figures.

Why? The Coyotes have a terrible reputation in Phoenix, thanks to their consistently lousy performance. This, combined with their financial struggles, made things all the worse for the team, earning them fewer and fewer fans at games.

The Attraction of Salt Lake City

Enter Salt Lake City! With a well-established hockey culture and a rabid fanbase, Salt Lake has long been considered a potential landing spot for an NHL franchise.

Here, the Coyotes get to tap into a hockey-loving market. Its population has wholeheartedly embraced hockey—not to mention the state-of-the-art arena in the Vivint Smart Home Arena.

I believe the Coyotes will be better off here. They get a fresh start with better attendance, stable finances, and a more engaged fanbase.

Wrapping Up

While Coyote’s move may be bittersweet for long-time fans in Arizona, I believe it’s a great chance for the team to finally establish itself in a market better suited to support and nurture it. It starts a new chapter of stability and better fanbase engagement. Here’s to hoping the Coyotes can finally find their footing and give hockey fans in Salt Lake City something to howl about.