Utah eyes NHL team after Jazz owner puts in request to initiate expansion

An NHL team could be heading to Utah after the Smith Entertainment Group, the owners of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, put in a request for an expansion process to the league.

The company's CEO Ryan Smith said he has the immediate ability to bring a team to Salt Lake City and is "100% focused on making this happen as soon as possible.'

NHL officials said they appreciate the interest as talks between the two sides have been ongoing since 2022. 

"During conversations over the course of the past two years, we have been impressed by Ryan and Ashley Smith’s commitment to their community and their passion and vision for Utah, not only as a hockey market but as a preeminent sports and entertainment destination," the league said in a statement. "Utah is a promising market, and we look forward to continuing our discussions."

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Five NHL exhibition games have been held at the Delta Center, the home of the Jazz, since 2018. SEG said the location for a potential new arena designed for hockey is yet to be determined.


Buildings stand in the skyline of Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Utah governor Spencer Cox said the state's history with hockey, strong economy, passionate sports fans and young and active population make it ripe for the addition of another team, while Salt Lake City bids for the 2034 Winter Olympics.

"With the Olympic bid underway, our long-standing reputation as one of the greatest winter sports capitals in the world, and with the proven leadership of Ryan and Ashley Smith and SEG in our community, I am extremely optimistic about the future of Utah," Cox said in a statement.

Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Olympics, the second with NHL players. The ECHL's Utah Grizzlies currently play in West Valley City in the suburbs.

Wednesday's announcement comes past the midway point of the hockey season and with remaining uncertainty about the future of the Arizona Coyotes, who are playing a second season in 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe. League and NHLPA leaders said last year they would like a resolution sooner than later about a long-term future for the Coyotes in the Phoenix area.

The Coyotes declined comment on the Salt Lake City release. They have been adamant about remaining in Arizona despite a failed arena vote in Tempe last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.