top of page

Searching for a New Den: Exploring the Arizona Coyotes’ Potential Relocation Options

By: Sarah Overton


After 27 years in Arizona, the Coyotes’ time in the desert may be over. Years of poor management, subpar play, low game attendance and arena issues have put the franchise at the center of relocation talks following the end of the 2022-2023 NHL season.


On May 16, voters in Tempe, Arizona, rejected the Coyotes’ plan for a new arena and surrounding entertainment district. The project was expected to cost $2.1 billion and would have included a 16,000-seat arena, two hotels, a 3,500-person theater and nearly 2,000 residential units.


Although the Coyotes were optimistic that the proposal would pass, 56% of Tempe residents voted “no” and ended the franchise’s hopes of a new arena in Tempe.


The Coyotes’ search for a new arena began almost two years ago after the city of Glendale opted not to renew the team’s operating agreement in 2021. This news came amidst one of the worst seasons in Coyotes’ history and was the start of rumors surrounding relocating the team.


While looking for a new arena location outside of Glendale, the Coyotes played the 2022-2023 NHL season at Mullett Arena.


Mullett Arena opened in 2022 and is home to Arizona State University’s men’s and women’s hockey programs. The arena has approximately 5,000 seats, which is three times smaller than any other NHL arena.


The Coyotes are slated to play at Mullett Arena through the 2024-2025 season and have the option to stay until 2026 if both sides agree.


As the Coyotes and NHL try to find a permanent place for the franchise to play, several cities have been speculated to be relocation options.


Houston


Relocating the Coyotes to Houston seems to be the NHL’s top option so far.


Houston has a population of over seven million and would be able to support a NHL team attendance and media-wise. The city was also home to the Houston Aeros, the Minnesota Wild’s first AHL affiliate team. While in Houston, the Aeros were very popular among residents and had a high attendance rate at games.


Houston Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta has previously shown interest in bringing an NHL team to Houston, however, many fans are wary about how much Fertitta is willing to pay for the team.


Fertitta also owns the Toyota Center, where the Coyotes would play if relocated to Houston. This means if Fertitta decides not to fund the Coyotes’ relocation and become an owner, any other owner would have to work out a lease agreement with him. Becoming a tenant of the arena would lower the prospective financial benefits and could cause problems in the future.


One of the biggest benefits of relocating the Coyotes to Houston is that the Coyotes would stay in the Western Conference. The league has previously expressed that they wish to keep the team out West, and Houston would satisfy that request.


Salt Lake City


Another city that has been repeatedly brought up during relocation talks is Salt Lake City.


Salt Lake City has passionate fans that have supported several minor league sports teams in the area, including the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL. The city has also been home to the Frozen Fury, which is an annual preseason game between the Los Angeles Kings and an opponent, most recently, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. While the Kings and Knights have only been playing in the Frozen Fury since 2021, Salt Lake City has hosted the tournament since 1997.


Vivint Arena, where the Coyotes would play, holds approximately 14,000 fans and is also home to the Utah Jazz. It would be the second-oldest arena in the NHL, but with Salt Lake City in the running to host the 2030 Winter Olympics, there could be a newer facility built.


Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith reportedly met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in March and is interested in bringing a team to Salt Lake City. In fact, in response to a tweet about NHL Playoffs, Smith said that bringing NHL hockey to the city was already “in motion.”


Moving the Coyotes to Salt Lake City would also keep them in the Western Conference.


Kansas City


With two other major league sports teams, Kansas City seems to have the infrastructure and sports fans to become the Coyotes’ new home.


Kansas City’s primary indoor arena, T-Mobile Center, holds about 17,500 fans when constructed for hockey games. In 2011, the arena hosted a sold-out preseason game between the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins.


Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, who had previously considered buying an NHL team, said in April that he was no longer interested. This means that the most obvious buyer who would relocate the Coyotes to Kansas City is out.


However, when Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes heard about the Coyotes’ newest arena plan being rejected, he tweeted: “KC coyotes has a nice ring to it! @NHL what y’all think? @tmobilecenter.” Mahomes has ownership in the Kansas City Royals and both of the city’s professional soccer teams, Sporting Kansas City and KC Current. Since he is so involved in Kansas City sports, the idea of him becoming at least a partial owner of an NHL franchise is not that far-fetched.


If the Coyotes relocated to Kansas City, they would be in the same state as the St. Louis Blues, creating an almost immediate rivalry.


Quebec City


Quebec City is an area that has a rich hockey history and has been begging for an NHL team to return to the city.


The Quebec Nordiques called the city home for nearly 20 years until the franchise was moved to Denver, Colorado, and renamed the Colorado Avalanche. Every time relocation or expansion teams are talked about in the NHL, Nordique fans always push for hockey to return to Quebec City.


Videotron Centre, where the Coyotes would play if relocated, holds a little over 18,000 people and is already an NHL caliber size arena. The arena is currently home to the QMJHL Quebec Remparts, who regularly sell over 10,000 tickets per game.


The major drawback of relocating the Coyotes to Quebec City is the city’s smaller metropolitan population and lack of corporate sponsors. Although fans are passionate about hockey, the league is unsure if the area has the means to support a team long-term.


Moving the Coyotes to eastern Canada would also mean that they could no longer play in the Western Conference like the league wants. Instead, they would have to join the Atlantic Division and force a team, possibly the Red Wings, to move back to the Central Division.


Atlanta


Atlanta is the largest market in the United States that does not have an NHL team. Although, the city is no stranger to the NHL.


Over the last 50 years, Atlanta has been home to two NHL franchises. The Atlanta Flames had an eight-year stint before being relocated to Calgary and renamed the Calgary Flames in 1980. Then in 1999, the Atlanta Thrashers were formed and played until 2011, when the team was moved to Winnipeg and became the Winnipeg Jets.


While the Thrashers’ old arena, State Farm Arena, is now home to the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA, an NHL team could still play there. However, recent plans to build a new arena outside downtown Atlanta have just been released.


The plan would build an arena with over 18,000 seats and 2,400 apartments and have availability for retail, office, and restaurant spaces. This plan is similar to the Coyotes’ most recent proposal that Tempe voters rejected.


Another plus for moving the Coyotes franchise to Atlanta is that their ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, is already in the state. This would allow the team to be closer to prospects that were previously across the country.


Moving the Coyotes to Atlanta would force the team out of the Western Conference and require another team to be moved.


(All photos courtesy of Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


153 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page