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Tourigny: 1st relocation rumor had 'huge impact' on Coyotes

Norm Hall / National Hockey League / Getty

The Arizona Coyotes have a Utah-sized elephant in the room, and head coach Andre Tourigny isn't shy about addressing it.

News Wednesday indicated the Coyotes could move to Salt Lake City for next season, and an announcement about the relocation could come as early as April 18.

Ahead of Arizona's contest Wednesday, Tourigny said he believes the rumors about the franchise's possible move proved to be a major distraction when the club first heard the speculation several months ago.

"The first time that (relocation) rumor came, it was Jan. 24, and that's the day we started a 14-game losing streak, so we cannot pretend it did not affect our team," Tourigny said, per Hockey Daily 365. "Unfortunately, that had a huge impact on our season. We did not deal with it the right way at the time."

Ryan Smith, owner of the NBA's Utah Jazz, noted on Jan. 24 that he could immediately bring an NHL franchise to Salt Lake City and formally requested the league to initiate the expansion process.

The Coyotes were two points out of a playoff spot prior to Smith's announcement, but their 14-game losing streak ultimately put a dagger in their season.

Arizona had a chance at redemption Wednesday on the road against the Pacific Division-leading Vancouver Canucks and pulled off a 4-3 overtime win.

"We did not manage the distraction really well the first time," Tourigny said postgame. "Not everybody (gets) a second chance, but we had a chance to do better this time, and I really like the attitude."

Rookie forward Logan Cooley played the role of hero by scoring the OT winner.

"It's always tough when media's going around saying we're gonna be here, we're gonna be there. We just need to stick together as a group and that's what we did," Cooley said postgame. "There's no quit in our team all year, whether that was when we were going through that losing streak (or) the arena news. It's a pretty special group we have in there."

The Coyotes have two more games on their current road trip before finishing their season at home against the Edmonton Oilers on April 17, potentially the franchise's last game in Arizona.

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