NHL

PK: Ryan, Ashley Smith Tap Into Dream Of Changing Utah With Addition Of NHL Team

Apr 18, 2024, 4:58 PM | Updated: Apr 19, 2024, 10:54 am

ryan smith watches nba game...

Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith looks on before a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Vivint Smart Home Arena on December 26, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Take a good look around your beloved Wasatch Front, maybe even snap a picture or two for keepsake, a dramatic makeover is forthcoming.

One of the best open secrets became official Thursday with the announcement Smith Entertainment Group has purchased the hockey assets of the Arizona Coyotes and will relocate as a brand new franchise to Salt Lake City. For a cool $1.2 billion Ryan Smith and his wife, Ashley, again tapped into the dream of changing Utah.

In less than six months, the puck will drop for real at the Delta Center. Maybe, the longtime home of the Utah Jazz will house the yet-to-be named team before the franchise moves into a hockey-specific arena somewhere near downtown, but that will come much further down the line.

Imagine the possibilities, as Ryan Smith did in a social media post on X in February. Clearly, he’s not stopping with one new building.

He wrote: “Downtown Salt Lake City is the heart of Utah. Our efforts are not about an arena, it’s about revitalizing a downtown that desperately needs investment. Imagine a downtown experience like this with the NBA/NHL at its core.”

You know the phrase – think big or go home. Try pumping big up another thousand steps on the ladder – this man’s mind goes far beyond the ordinary genius.

And get this, he’s still a young pup at only 45 years old. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet – wait until he’s 50.

Ryan Smith: Sports Tycoon

The renovation started in October 2020 when the billionaire couple bought a majority stake in the Jazz from Gail Miller, wife of the late Larry H. Miller. Two years later, they teamed with David Blitzer to buy Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer. And they eventually brought the Utah Royals back to town.

Ryan Smith wasn’t stopping there. He also set his sights on bringing NHL hockey to the capital city, either through league expansion or getting a beleaguered owner to sell an existing team.

Ponder all that he has done in less than five years. For better or worse, he’s not fond of sitting still.

Oh, in his spare time, Smith dabbles in his alma mater’s sports. He had a hand in luring the recently hired Kevin Young away from his position as associate head coach of the Phoenix Suns to succeed Mark Pope as the BYU basketball coach.

Long known for not paying the going rate, BYU reportedly gave Young a seven-year, $30 million contract. This comes on the heels of giving football coach Kalani Sitake a contract that athletic director Tom Holmoe labeled “unprecedented.”

Not counting BYU, there’s a joke in there somewhere, Smith has control – or at least a major voice – in operating Qualtrics, the Jazz and RSL. He launched Qualtrics, for which he remains executive chairman, with his father and brother in 2017 and later sold it for $8 billion.

Utah … NBA … NHL

As the first team to play exclusively at the highest level of professional sports in the state, the Jazz will always hold a special place in our hearts. First loves always remain entrenched in a sacred space.

So far, so bad, regarding Smith’s ownership of the Jazz – at least in terms of the team’s record. Under his leadership, along with his most trusted basketball advisor, Danny Ainge, the team hasn’t made the postseason the last two years.

Smith authorized virtually a complete teardown two years ago, essentially stripping the team of any seasoned talent in favor of stockpiling draft picks stretching into the rest of the decade. Predictably, the Jazz played out the string the last two seasons stockpiling nothing but losses.

While it is grossly unfair to draw final conclusions on Smith’s ownership capabilities, the clock is ticking loudly. Going forward, our attention will turn toward the new toy in town.

The team leaves Arizona having endured four consecutive losing seasons but has increased its win total each year, improving from 24 in 56-game shortened season in 2020-21 to 36 in the season that concluded this week.

Much like the Jazz, the team has loaded up on draft picks that offer promise for more competitive hockey. Over the last two years, the team has added five players through the draft with more to come.

Whatever the future holds for hockey in Utah, it promises to be groundbreaking. Much the way Smith lives his life.

Hear more from PK here, on X. 

Or subscribe to the DJ & PK wherever you find podcasts. 

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PK: Ryan, Ashley Smith Tap Into Dream Of Changing Utah With Addition Of NHL Team