Longtime Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson on the move of the Coyotes to Utah.

The Arizona Coyotes will play their season finale Wednesday night. It will likely be the NHL team’s final game in that state. According to several reports, the franchise is on the verge of relocating to Salt Lake City. The move could be announced soon with the club likely playing the 2024-25 season at the Delta Center, the home of the NBA’s Utah Jazz.

To learn more, we recently caught up with Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson. He has covered sports in that area for three decades. Monson also grew up a huge hockey fan in Philadelphia. We spoke to Monson about this potential seismic change in the Utah sports landscape.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: We’ll start with the most important question: What should the nickname be for Utah’s NHL team?

Gordon Monson: “I’d say the Utah Raptors or Black Diamonds. There’s a lot of skiing here, and there’s a lot of black diamond runs. I know there’s an NBA team, (the Toronto Raptors), but there is an actual dinosaur called a Utahraptor. BYU’s football stadium used to have, down in the basement, there was a guy who was a dinosaur bone collector, and it was filled with dinosaur bones. Since then, they’ve moved some of those to museums or whatnot. Dinosaur National (Monument) is here in Utah, too.”

The NBA team kept “Jazz” when it moved from New Orleans. Would the NHL team do the same and keep “Coyotes?”

“I read about this—and I don’t know whether it’s a fact—that the owner (Alex Meruelo) might want to keep that name if they brought (an expansion) franchise there. So, I’d have to check on that. That might be off the table because the name might be his to keep.”

What is Salt Lake City’s history with hockey?

“They do have a minor-league team called the Utah Grizzlies. They play in West Valley City, which is a suburb of Salt Lake. They play at a place called the Maverik Center, and that’s where Olympic hockey was played in 2002. It’s a great hockey arena, but it only holds about 10,000 people, so I don’t think it would be suitable for the NHL. The Utah Grizzlies play in the ECHL. They won the Turner Cup (in 1996). That was played at the Delta Center, and the sight lines for hockey are not good in that building. But they packed the place for that back then.

Long before that, they had the Golden Eagles, a popular team here for many years. There were NHLers who came through that franchise and went on to play at the top level of the game.”

Do you think people would support an NHL team?

“It’s interesting because there are conflicting opinions on that. I personally think hockey will thrive here. But it comes down to what it almost always comes down to with professional franchises. How well is the club run? If the club is run well, people will get behind it in a big way. Even at times when it’s not particularly successful. The fans here in Salt Lake City, and in Utah in general are really supportive. The Utah Jazz were tanking games at the end of the season. They lost 13 in a row at one point, and in their final home game, the place was packed. It was packed for most of the season. Will they support hockey? They definitely will if the club is run well. If it isn’t run well, then I think it might suffer.”

Jazz owner Ryan Smith is expected to own the hockey team. Will he need to build a new arena?

“Yeah, that’s part of the controversy because already the Utah legislature has earmarked, I think, a billion dollars to build something that would accommodate hockey the way an NHL team should be accommodated. A lot of us around here want the Delta Center to be preserved. They just went through a major renovation a few years ago, and it’s a great facility for basketball. But for hockey, they need to build something else. Will they build a hockey-only type facility and keep the Delta Center, or will they go to something along the lines of a United Center in Chicago and have it be a dual-purpose kind of facility? Either way, there will be a new building built.”

Could the official announcement on the Coyotes coming to Utah be as soon as Wednesday?

“That’s the information we’re getting. I don’t know that for a fact, but that’s sort of an expectation. That something will be made public, confirming that all this is going to happen. At least that’s the expectation within the next few days. The way it’s been explained to me is the NHL is involved in this negotiation and that somehow they will collect their fee and distribute $200 million for all the owners if it is approved. Then Ryan Smith takes possession of the franchise and brings it up here.”

How do you feel about hockey coming to Salt Lake City?

“I love hockey. I’m somewhat biased because I grew up just south of Philadelphia. I was a Broad Street Bullies fan back when Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, and Moose Dupont were winning Stanley Cups. As that team emerged, I saw the benefit to the community. Philly went crazy for NHL hockey. I was a kid growing up, and we’re playing street hockey, we’re playing ice hockey. The effect that it’s had on the community was pretty major. I think that the same thing could happen here in Salt Lake City.”

What was it like seeing hockey in person as a kid?

“I used to go to the Spectrum to watch games. The environment was so electric, so exciting. The Broad Street Bullies had their way of playing hockey, and it got pretty physical at times. But then you watch guys like Bobby Clarke and Rick MacLeish, who could handle the puck and do the things that skilled hockey players can do. Man, I used to sit there, I was amazed by it. I played hockey for years just because of the effect that the Flyers had, not just on me, but on my friends and the community as a whole.”

Do you still play?

“I don’t. I’m getting old, and slowing down a little bit. But I do like the game, and I think a lot of people here do too. In 2002, when the Olympic hockey was going on, people got into that. It was a hot ticket. And, of course, the guys who lit the flame for the Olympics was the 1980 U.S. hockey team. There was a real flavor for it around here.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.