Utah and hockey seem like a match made in heaven.

The Wasatch mountains covered in fresh powder scream “Hockey Imaging”. Imagine the social media graphics and billboards up Interstate 80 with hockey players posed in front of those Utah mountainous backdrops.

Utah cries out for a professional hockey team, and Utah Jazz owner, Ryan Smith, hears it clearly.

Earlier this year, Smith reportedly met with Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the National Hockey League

Elliotte Friedman, a Canadian reporter, brought the story to light and shared that there was mutual interest between the NHL and Smith saying "this is one to watch.”

Smith would then add more fuel to the fire by responding to a social media post in which he was tagged to bring Stanly Cup playoff action to the beehive state.

His simple response was: “in motion”.

This happened in April. Since then, things have gotten much quieter on that front.

Smith clearly isn’t trying to hide his interest in a hockey team. Whether it be an expansion team itself, or a relocating struggling squad (cough, cough Coyotes). He seemed determined to make it happen.

As you may know however, it takes two to tango and Smith’s dancing partner isn’t tapping their foot to the beat at the moment.

Gary Bettman was on the Pat McAfee show earlier today discussing the state of the NHL for the shows “hockey is awesome” segment.

McAfee, a recent convert to the beauty and awesomeness of Utah, was doing all he could to make a case for Salt Lake City.

The topic came about when discussing the future of the Arizona Coyotes and a cities impact on a team. McAfee mentioned how many people approached him in SLC mentioning how much they enjoyed the hockey segment.

He brought up that the Utah Jazz who had witnessed 251 straight sell outs at the time he took in a game. McAfee alluded to the support and loyalty fans have in a place like Salt Lake City and how they would look at a place like Phoenix and be disgusted of their treatment of the current NHL team. “Those cities, see what’s happening in Phoenix, and they think it’s a crime almost.”

Utahn’s have become accustomed to big name sports personalities bashing on them and the state they love, so Pat’s push for Utah fans and the city of Salt Lake was a fresh breath of air.

Bettman would simply say that the “Coyotes need a new arena, its that simple.” He described that the current Arizona owner is committed and mentioned the market and the fans of Phoenix as positives to wanting the team to stay.

He would state that “Our hope is that sometime this season we are in a position to announce that there will be a new arena for the Coyotes coming out of the ground, that’s the Goal.”

The NHL and Bettman seem to be patient in seeing the Coyotes to the bitter end. As long as there is a chance for hockey to remain in Phoenix, they appear to want to keep it there.

A small spark of hope remains however as Bettman gave Utah its flowers by adding: “That doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t do well, perhaps with expansion in the future in a place like Salt Lake City where we know there’s tremendous interest.”

The NHL and the Coyotes seem to be a no-go at this point in time, and Bettman himself alluded to expansion. So how about it? A brand-new shiny team in the Utah mountains like the Vegas Golden Knights or Seattle Kraken?

Well, hold that thought. The topic of expansion came up with the success of Vegas and Seattle, and McAfee did a temperature check, with a “how do you feel” on 32 NHL teams.

Much to the disappointment of Utahn’s everywhere Bettman would say that “in terms of moving forward, we get expressions of interest all the time.”

“Expansion isn’t on the forefront of what we’re thinking about, I take meetings all the time, I listen to expressive interest, I’m not ruling it out but its not something were focused on or were pushing to do right now.”

In terms of the NHL itself, Bettman would state: “We like where we are, we think we have a good balance.”

Pump the Brakes Utah. Hockey will come, but it doesn't seem to be showing up any time soon.





More From Sports Radio 97.7