Arizona Coyotes' broadcasters Tyson Nash (L) and Todd Walsh ahead of the franchise's likely final game in the state. Arizona Coyotes’ broadcasters Tyson Nash (L) and Todd Walsh ahead of the franchise’s likely final game in the state. (@Camd3n_10 on Twitter/X.)

Franchise relocations are one of the toughest things to watch in sports. And they often lead to some notable farewell coverage from the local broadcast teams. The latest relocation is the Arizona Coyotes’ expected move to Salt Lake City (which is pending approval by the full NHL board of governors Friday, but appears to be all but set).

The Coyotes were 35-41-5 and second-to-last in the Pacific Division (so well out of playoff contention) heading into Wednesday night’s regular-season finale at home against the Edmonton Oilers. Thus, that game was widely billed as their last in Arizona before the anticipated move to Utah, leading to a planned fan “whiteout” and high ticket prices (north of $400 a seat at Mullett Arena, which is capped at 4,600 people for NHL games).

And even before puck drop, the Coyotes’ local broadcast team (their games were formerly on Bally Sports Arizona, but moved to Scripps-owned over-the-air stations and streaming on Kiswe last fall) was showing some emotion here. Pre-game host Todd Walsh and color analyst Tyson Nash, both long-time figures with the franchise (Walsh on the broadcast side for more than 2,000 games, Nash as a player from 2003-06 and as a broadcaster on radio and TV since 2008), discussed that ahead of the game:

This started with a discussion of Toronto Maple Leafs’ star Auston Matthews, known for growing up in Arizona and still living there in the offseason. Nash said he “Still lives locally, still has a home here in the Valley, and he is absolutely heartbroken by the news.” And that led to Walsh asking “This hits not just locally. It has tentacles, doesn’t it?”, which led to some notable and emotional commentary from Nash:

“This is awful. This is everywhere. This is absolutely gut-wrenching, heartbreaking. Best city in the world, I can’t say it enough. I’m absolutely in shock. And possibly, we have lost our hockey team. That was a gift. The NHL gave us a gift here in Arizona. And we possibly just lost it.”

After that, Walsh asked “How’d we do? You all right?”, and Nash responded “We did good. I’m on the brink of tears, I can tell you that. 22 years, buddy. You a lot longer.” Walsh then said “A lifetime. And it gave me a purpose, I know that.”

That clip then cuts to a closing bit from Walsh:

“If you’re watching here tonight and haven’t watched in a few years and wanted to check it out, thank you. If you have been a long-time viewer, thank you. Your investment in this sport and the people in it and our broadcast crew, I know, means the world to everybody in the hockey community. This is a family, and that’s one thing I learned over 2,000 games ago, I can tell you that.”

There’s always a human cost to franchise relocation, from fans left without a team to staffers who may or may not be offered roles in the new location to players who have to move. And that’s notable on the broadcast side as well. Nash and Walsh showed that off here, but they made it much more about the fans and about the area than about themselves.

And while there’s a lot for Salt Lake to celebrate with this relocation, there’s also a lot of dismay in Arizona. Yes, there’s still hope for hockey there; current owner Alex Meruelo (expected to receive around $1 billion in this deal) is involved in a land auction in June, which might allow him to land the arena site he’s been chasing, and could lead to an eventual expansion team with the Coyotes’ history. And Craig Morgan of PHNX reported Wednesday that several key local leaders are trying to keep Arizona hockey strong in the interim.

But there’s at the very least the likely loss of NHL hockey for at least a few years, and possibly more than that. And that emotion was shown on this pre-game broadcast Wednesday.

[@Camd3n_10 on Twitter/X]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.