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7 cities Coyotes could relocate to after failed arena deal

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The writing might finally be on the wall regarding the Arizona Coyotes' tenure in the desert.

After 27 years in the state and a significant amount of organizational turmoil, the future of Arizona's franchise appears to be in significant jeopardy following a failed bid to secure a new arena in Tempe. The Coyotes said the NHL will determine what's next, and deputy commissioner Bill Daly has since stated the Coyotes are expected to stay put for at least another season. Still, the burning question remains at the forefront of the hockey world: Where might the Coyotes relocate?

Gary Bettman has deflected answers to that question for years and has fought tooth and nail to keep the club in the Southwest. He even said if the Tempe arena deal was secured then the Coyotes would stay in Arizona forever.

Bettman's hand could now be forced, and with that in mind, we're exploring seven options to be the Coyotes' new home. The locations vary in feasibility, but here are our best guesses.

Already in the mix


Houston has been a rumored NHL destination for a while, and it's a sensible fit for the Coyotes. They wouldn't have to leave the Central Division if they packed for Texas, and it would create a natural rivalry with the Dallas Stars.

Additionally, the NHL is the only big-four North American league that doesn't have multiple teams in the state, and Houston is a gigantic market to explore as the United States' fourth-most populated city. Of course, a dense population clearly isn't the be-all and end-all for a successful NHL team, as Phoenix ranks fifth.

Houston also has an NHL-caliber arena in the Toyota Center, home of the NBA's Rockets. Owner Tilman Fertitta expressed a desire to bring the NHL to Houston when the league expanded to Vegas in 2017, and it's easy to imagine he'll be in the mix again.

Salt Lake City

Melissa Majchrzak / National Basketball Association / Getty

Utah's capital hasn't traditionally been viewed as a hockey hotbed, but Salt Lake City may get its chance. It's another location that could serve in the Central Division and as a possible geographical rival with the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights.

Salt Lake City also has a ready-made arena thanks to the Utah Jazz, who are run by an ambitious owner with his sights set on the NHL. Ryan Smith caused a stir in April when he tweeted that bringing hockey to the area is "in motion."

Smith was in the mix to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins when they went up for sale in 2021, and Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the billionaire had dinner with Bettman in March. That hardly guarantees an NHL team in the Beehive State, but it's a notable development considering the lack of concrete information available.

Geographical fits

Kansas City

You've may have surmised by now that Central Division options are a common theme. It makes sense, given how adamant Bettman has been about keeping the league's division-based playoff format and how recently the league realigned to welcome Seattle into the fold. With that in mind, we're tossing Kansas City out there despite no clear ownership candidates.

Kansas City has a failed NHL history with the Scouts - now the New Jersey Devils - in the 1970s, but the league has shown a willingness to return to a market before. (More on that later.) Kansas City has a modest population of approximately 500,000 but has proved to be a passionate fan base for teams in the area. Superstar Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is a noted hockey nut and would be a terrific ambassador to help popularize an NHL franchise.

There's an 18,000-seat arena at the ready in the T-Mobile Center and an immediate rivalry option with the nearby St. Louis Blues, who have built a strong market in the Midwest that was rewarded with a Stanley Cup in 2019.


Jesse D. Garrabrant / National Basketball Association / Getty

Here's the last of of Central Division fits. The University of Wisconsin is one of the most revered college hockey programs, and the state has produced stars such as Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel, Gary and Ryan Suter, and Cole Caufield, among many others. Despite seeming like a natural fit for an NHL franchise, Milwaukee hasn't garnered much attention.

Maybe now is the time. There's an arena available to be shared with the Bucks and plenty of potential enemies in the area, including the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, and Winnipeg Jets. Milwaukee was almost granted a franchise when the league expanded in 1992 but was beat out by the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators. The market still might be too small for Bettman's taste.

Let's get crazy


Is the third time a charm in Atlanta? Even before the Coyotes' arena plan fell through, the city has been occupying headlines as a rumored destination. ESPN's John Buccigross and Kevin Weekes both raised eyebrows with cryptic tweets about a return to Georgia, and then Bettman confirmed Atlanta's interest in March before insisting expansion wasn't on the league's to-do list.

Atlanta has seen two teams leave the city: the Flames in 1980 and Thrashers in 2011. There's an arena downtown that the Thrashers used to share with the NBA's Hawks, but Bettman mentioned bidders have tabled funding new buildings for a potential NHL return, which wouldn't help the Coyotes in the near term.

Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo has ties to Atlanta, as he bid to buy the Hawks in 2011. The Coyotes have two more years on their deal at Mullett Arena, so maybe there's a path to relocate to Atlanta down the road, but at this juncture, it feels unlikely given the current hurdles.


Steve Russell / Toronto Star / Getty

If the league wants instant interest, it's difficult to imagine a better landing spot than Toronto. The Maple Leafs are perennially one of the league's top revenue-earners, and there's an expansive population in the area that could easily financially support a second team. It shouldn't be difficult to find fans, given how big the market is and how jaded Leafs supporters have grown in the wake of seven consecutive playoff failures and a Cup drought in its 56th year.

This is the least likely scenario on the list. There's been no hints from pundits, ambitious owners, or Bettman, but it'd be the most chaotic option, and that's why we love it.

Quebec City

Devoted supporters of the old Nordiques are sure to be dreaming again. Quebec has been vying to get a franchise back since the Nordiques left for Colorado in 1995 and has gone as far as building a state-of-the-art rink in the Videotron Centre. Bettman hasn't exactly been bullish on bringing a second team back to the province given the small market in Quebec City, and he has reason to be hesitant about an eighth franchise in Canada considering the Winnipeg Jets are near the bottom in league revenue 12 years after coming back.

Realignment would also likely be required. It's not impossible - with 32 teams, the NHL could move to smaller divisions like the NFL - but Bettman has vouched for the current setup time and time again. Although there's technically a slight opening for an NHL return to Quebec's capital, supporters in La Belle Province shouldn't hold their breath for the Coyotes.

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