Sunday, July 14

The NHL’s move to Salt Lake City is the latest downsizing of the sport

Sometimes, smaller is better.

For decades, major sports leagues have sought to place teams in the country’s largest markets, in hopes of selling more tickets and sponsorships, as well as satisfying broadcasters who want to reach as many viewers as possible.

But in recent years, leagues have embraced the allure of smaller markets. Teams moved to cities like Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, seeking financial incentives, newer arenas and stadiums, and more devoted fans.

In early April, the National Hockey League approved the $1.2 billion sale of the Arizona Coyotes to tech billionaire Ryan Smith and his wife Ashley. The team, which will be renamed, will begin play next season at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, home of another Smiths team, the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association.

At first glance, the move could be seen as a step backwards. The Salt Lake City metropolitan area is less than half the size of Phoenix; Salt Lake City is the 29th largest media market, while Phoenix is ​​the 11th. Utah has never been home to an NHL team. But the league’s decision was less about Salt Lake City’s size and more about its demographics. Like Phoenix, Salt Lake City is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. But in Utah, a thriving tech industry has attracted an influx of young workers with disposable income.