Arizona Coyotes, Valley fans brace for potential finale before rumored Salt Lake City move

(Video by Ari Wohl/Cronkite News)

SCOTTSDALE – The Ice Den is a familiar place for the Arizona Coyotes, who have spent countless hours perfecting their craft there. Since opening in 1998, the venue has provided consistency and comfort as the Coyotes practice facility.

Tuesday was different.

The Coyotes took the ice for what is widely expected to be their final practice of the season and, likely, in Arizona. Reports flooded in Friday that the team will soon announce new ownership and relocation to Salt Lake City for the 2024-25 NHL season.

Amid speculation that owner Alex Meruelo will continue to pursue a new arena and seek an expansion team in the future, the Coyotes will play their final game in the Valley at Arizona State’s Mullett Arena on Wednesday when the Edmonton Oilers visit.

Players and coaches went through their typical motions on the ice, but the emotion was far from steady. On the ice, the team shared smiles and high energy. Off the ice, the tension of the unknown and raw sadness from Coyotes coach Tourigny and his players was palpable.

“Walking in the practice rink today there were a few fans outside shaking our hands,” Tourigny said. “You feel the emotion.”

The anticipation for Wednesday’s game has reached an all-time high. Ticket prices for the game have skyrocketed to $10,000. The cheapest individual ticket (standing room only) is listed at $443, according to Ticketmaster.

Coyotes fans across the Valley have expressed frustration and sadness about the team’s likely departure on social media throughout the week.

Forward Lawson Crouse, who began his NHL career in 2016-17 and has spent all of it with the Coyotes, experienced the team’s move from Glendale to Tempe and is staring down another likely move.

“Arizona is home for me and over the eight years they’ve been great at supporting us through all the ups and downs,” Crouse said. “They mean so much to not only myself, but all of my teammates. Very grateful to have them by our side through everything.”

The atmosphere at Mullett Arena will be emotional, and Crouse understands the game will mean the most to fans, who have weathered years of drama surrounding the franchise – almost all of it beyond the rink or locker room.

“(I will be thinking about) the entire community really,” Crouse said when asked where his thoughts will be during the game. “There’s been an outreach of support and messages and everyone has seen it. You feel for everyone that is affected, obviously the entire community and the organization.”

Lawson Crouse responds to questions Tuesday at the Ice Den in Scottsdale about the team’s expected relocation to Salt Lake City. (Photo by Ari Wohl/Cronkite News)

Lawson Crouse responds to questions Tuesday at the Ice Den in Scottsdale about the team’s expected relocation to Salt Lake City. (Photo by Ari Wohl/Cronkite News)

Despite the speculation swirling around the team, a singular focus remains ahead of the matchup with Edmonton.

“We want to make sure we are remembered as a group who fought every last ounce we had in our body,” Tourigny said. “I think the support of the fans in the last week and the atmosphere of that game tomorrow and people talking about that game, that is what fuels me. People have been more than fantastic to us and that is what we want to be for them.”

Arizona has won five of its last nine games with elite performances by their young core, despite being eliminated from the playoffs on March 26.

Forward Alex Kerfoot has played a huge role in leading the group of young talent and remains satisfied with his team’s push at the end of the season, which included a victory over the Oilers during a five-game road trip.

“I think that was a good road trip for us,” Kerfoot said. “We would have liked to finish better in Calgary, we just let that one get away from us but overall winning three out of five, playing some pretty good hockey teams, that is a good result and coming home here against one of the better teams in the league.”

Earlier this month, the Coyotes organization and ownership released renderings of a new entertainment district in North Phoenix, including an arena that could house the team as early as 2027. Almost a week after the renderings were released, rumors began of the team’s relocation to Salt Lake City.

Before Friday’s game against Edmonton, Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong reportedly addressed the team in the locker room and made players aware of the expected move from Arizona to Utah.

Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith previously expressed interest in buying an NHL team for Salt Lake City, and has established a relationship with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman over the years.

Now, his efforts and that relationship appear to be paying off.

Initial rumors about a possible relocation started in January, after the Coyotes got off to a hot start and entered the playoff conversation before the NHL All-Star break. Despite the lack of anything official, the team suffered a 14-game losing streak and slipped well out of the playoff picture.

“When the distraction hit us first on January 24th – we all remember the date – we started a stretch that defined our season, unfortunately, and that pushed us out of the playoff picture,” Tourigny said. “So it’s not every time you have a second chance in a season to face the same situation and respond differently, and I think our guys did so.”

Now, the Coyotes hope to finish the season and an era of hockey in the desert with a sendoff marked by heart and grit.

“I think the best advice that I’ve gained throughout my professional career is to worry about the things that you can control, and the rest will take care of itself,” Crouse said. “So that is our mindset and we have to keep that up.”

Josh Jones(he/him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Josh Jones expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Jones has interned as a beat writer, tech director and producer at, Varsity Sports and PHNX.

Ari Wohl(he/him)
Broadcast Producer, Phoenix

Ari Wohl expects to graduate in August 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism before pursuing his master’s degree. Wohl has interned for two summers with the Orange County Riptide, a collegiate summer league in Southern California.