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Will the NHL succeed in Salt Lake City? A breakdown of hockey in the region

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KIFI) - As East Idaho has seen with the Spud Kings in Idaho Falls the last two years, hockey has grown in this area through the team's success. With the NHL now going to Utah through the hybrid relocation of the Arizona Coyotes, will we see the same kind of growth?

I made the trek south this week to find the answer and meet with a couple that has experienced hockey in both Utah and Arizona.

The yet-to-be-named new NHL franchise in Utah is the first NHL team in the Beehive State. The Utah name, logos, and trademarks will be new, but the players, coaches, and hockey operations staff come from the new inactive Arizona Coyotes.

"I think they're going to be blown away with the reception that they get and hopefully everyone on Wednesday shows up," Smith Entertainment Group Chairman/CEO Ryan Smith said.

The new team also has big goals.

"We want to bring a championship," Smith Entertainment Group Co-Owner Ashley Smith said. "We want to bring a Stanley Cup to Utah."

Salt Lake City is the fourth city in the mountain west and the desert southwest to get an NHL team along with Denver's Colorado Avalanche, Las Vegas' Vegas Golden Knights, and Phoenix's Arizona Coyotes.

So I ventured to one of those cities, Las Vegas, to check out the Golden Knights to understand why the NHL can and has worked in the region despite the Coyotes' hybrid relocation.

This is also where I met with a couple, Jeanette and Tom Lashoff, that has been part of both the Utah and Arizona hockey communities, and they also happen to be my aunt and uncle.

While seeing the VGK firsthand, we talked about the Yotes' hybrid move to Utah.

"We've got friends that live there," Jeanette Lashoff said. "We talk to people in the dog park about it many times, and there is a lot of people that really love the Coyotes. I think the location made it a little difficult for people to get there."

"I was actually disappointed when I heard the news that they were going to leave," Tom Lashoff said. "I've been a Coyotes fan for years. I spent the last couple of winters in Phoenix, an amazing area, and I really became a fan of the team."

The hockey market we experienced this week, Las Vegas, is a hockey market like no other, but the massive success of the Golden Knights bodes well for the fate of the NHL in Salt Lake City.

"Salt Lake City is a tourist destination also with all the skiing and the hiking," Jeanette Lashoff said. "So it might be natural for people to come, just like they do to Vegas.

"It takes a lot of work to build up a fan base, as Vegas knows, but if they want to follow how Vegas did it, they can be successful."

Given the hockey they've seen and experienced in the mountain west and the desert southwest, I asked the Lashoffs if they think the NHL can be a success in Salt Lake City.

"I think it's going to be great for for youth hockey there," Tom Lashoff said. "I think it'll probably grow the sport there. I think it's very good for the Salt Lake area."

"They have the Grizzlies there, but not huge turnouts," Jeanette Lashoff said. "And I think having those players to look up to is really going to make a difference in terms of not just the kids and how they think about hockey, but even in terms of the coaches. And they'll probably up the level of the entire region."

Regardless of how Utah got the NHL to come to Salt Lake City, what's guaranteed is the Delta Center will be rocking for hockey this fall.

Article Topic Follows: Local Sports

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Eric Moon

Eric is the Sports Line director.


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