The landscape of professional sports in Utah is poised for a significant transformation, with the Smith Entertainment Group (SEG) spearheading a bold initiative to introduce National Hockey League (NHL) action to the state. SEG, a dominant force in Utah’s sports and entertainment sector, has officially requested the NHL to consider expanding their league footprint to include a team from Utah.
SEG’s Diverse Sports Portfolio
Under the leadership of Ryan Smith, SEG has established itself as a major player in the sports arena, owning and operating the Utah Jazz, Delta Center, Real Salt Lake (MLS), and the Utah Royals (NWSL), among other ventures. This diverse portfolio underscores SEG’s commitment to enriching the sports culture in Utah, and their latest move to bring NHL hockey to the region is a testament to this dedication.
In a recent statement, Ryan Smith, SEG’s owner and chairman, expressed his enthusiasm and commitment towards making NHL a reality in Utah. “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,” Smith stated. This vision is not just about adding another sports team; it’s about elevating Utah’s status as a premier destination for sports and entertainment.
NHL’s Response to Utah’s Proposal
The NHL has recognized Utah’s potential as a promising market for professional hockey. In a statement, the NHL acknowledged the interest shown by SEG and expressed eagerness to engage in further discussions. The league has been impressed with Ryan and Ashley Smith’s dedication to their community and their vision for Utah, not only as a hockey market but also as a leading sports and entertainment hub.
The journey to bring an NHL franchise to Utah began in earnest in 2022, with Ryan and Ashley Smith initiating dialogues with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. The formal request to the league includes a comprehensive plan to build a new arena in Utah, designed specifically for professional and Olympic hockey standards. However, any expansion decision will ultimately rest with the NHL Board of Governors.
A Ready Venue
While the new arena is in the planning stages, SEG has proposed that the Delta Center could immediately host the team. This move illustrates SEG’s readiness and adaptability in making Utah an NHL destination as soon as possible.
Utah’s bid for an upcoming Winter Olympics, with endorsement from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, aligns perfectly with SEG’s NHL aspirations. Governor Spencer Cox highlighted Utah’s robust economy, passionate sports fanbase, and youthful, active population as ideal ingredients for expanding the state’s sports and entertainment landscape. “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,” Governor Cox remarked.
Comparisons with Recent NHL Expansions
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has noted similarities between Utah’s NHL aspirations and the league’s recent expansions with the Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken. Ryan Smith’s consistent communication with NHL leaders Gary Bettman and Bill Daly demonstrates SEG’s commitment and readiness to partner with the NHL.
Smith’s personal passion for sports, his family, his faith, his alma mater (Brigham Young University), and his state shines through in this ambitious endeavor. This blend of personal and professional commitment sets the stage for a dynamic and exciting chapter in Utah’s sports history, potentially bringing the high-paced action of NHL hockey to a new and enthusiastic audience in Utah.