Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Utah Senate Speaker Mike Schultz, and Senate President J Stuart Adams released a joint statement at the end of January regarding efforts the state is undertaking to entice a National Hockey League (NHL) expansion team to the state.
The statement said, “Today, Gov. Spencer Cox, Senate President J. Stuart Adams and House Speaker Mike Schultz met with National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman. Utah has the foundation of being the next major sports and entertainment destination in the United States. With the fastest growing economy, youngest population in the country and a long history as a premier winter sports destination, Utah is excited about the prospect of being the new home to an NHL franchise.”
The effort is being directed by Ryan Smith and the Smith Entertainment Group (SEG), the parent company of the Utah Jazz, the National Basketball Association (NBA) team based in Salt Lake City. Talks about expansion prospects between the Smiths and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman were initiated as far back as 2016.
The NHL released a statement saying, “The NHL appreciates the interest expressed by Smith Entertainment Group to bring NHL hockey to Utah. 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. Utah is a promising market, and we look forward to continuing our discussions.”
In a statement by SEG, Smith said, “SEG envisions a near future where the NHL will thrive in Utah, and we are 100 percent focused on making this happen as soon as possible. We are passionate about sports and entertainment in the state and are committed to providing premium sports and entertainment experiences for the people of Utah and visitors from around the world. We are ready to welcome the NHL and are confident that the time and attention being spent by all parties will bring one of the most exciting and dynamic leagues in the world to our community on a permanent basis.”
Salt Lake City was previously home to professional hockey teams in the International Hockey League, and the Utah Grizzlies are the Premier “AA” affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.
The Utah State Senate has voted unanimously in favor of a resolution supporting SEG’s efforts.