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Hockey Insider: Ryan Smith Is ‘Kind Of Guy’ NHL Wants

Apr 3, 2023, 1:51 PM

SALT LAKE CITYElliotte Friedman of Sportsnet joined KSL Sports Zone’s Jake & Ben to discuss the reported meeting between Utah Jazz/Real Salt Lake owner Ryan Smith and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

The NHL insider joined Jake Scott and Ben Anderson during their weekday radio program on Monday, April 3.

A few days before hopping on the phone with the KSL Sports Zone show, Friedman reported that Smith and Bettman had recently had dinner together following the NBA’s board of governors meetings in New York City.

“That night, according to multiple sources, Bettman had dinner with Ryan Smith, owner of the Utah Jazz,” Friedman wrote. “This is one to watch. When Fenway bought the Penguins, Smith was rumoured as another potential purchaser. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I was told to keep his name on my radar, because he’s interested in the NHL — and the NHL is very interested in him.”

RELATED: Report: NHL Commissioner Met With Jazz Owner Ryan Smith

During the interview on KSL Sports Zone, Friedman said that Smith is the “kind of guy” that the NHL wants in ownership.

He’s smart. He’s a huge champion of the area,” Friedman said of Smith. “I’ve seen the quotes from him and his wife both in and around the [NBA] All-Star Game about how much they believe in Utah. Some people sent me some demographics of how…Salt Lake City is a fast-growing city with a lot of tech money. Like all of these kinds of things are the kinds of things the NHL really likes. And I’ve just heard, as you guys said that he likes the NHL, and now I’ve heard the NHL really likes him.”

The hockey insider highlighted that he doesn’t think an NHL team coming to Utah is “imminent or anything like that.” The Arizona Coyotes have been floated as a potential team to relocate from Phoenix. However, Friedman doesn’t believe the Coyotes make sense for the Beehive State.

“We’ve got a situation where Arizona has a big vote next month and if they don’t win it, we’re all wondering about their future. I’m not convinced that Salt Lake City could be a home for the Coyotes. I think they want something new as opposed to something moved,” Friedman said. I was told very unlikely.”

He also discussed the timeline of Utah adding an NHL franchise to the market aligning with the state hosting the Winter Olympics a decade from now.

“When that happens, there could be some new facilities that come in potentially a new arena for basketball and hockey,” Friedman said.

The insider also discussed that timeline in his recent report.

“Salt Lake City hosted the excellent 2002 Winter Olympics and is considered the favourite to do it again…That could lead to new facilities, including a future home for the NBA team and an NHL brother,” Friedman wrote.

Last October, Smith announced Arctos Sports Partners was buying a minority share in the Smith Entertainment Group (SEG), the entity that owns the Jazz, and hoped to bring a fifth professional sports team to the state of Utah.

Smith didn’t reveal which major sports league the group was eyeing, but sources told KSL Sports that the NHL was the league most likely to expand into the state.

A private equity firm, Arctos launched in 2019 and has built more than $5 billion in assets through the Artcos Sports fund. The company specializes in investing in passive minority stakes in professional sports franchises whose value appreciates faster than traditional stock investments.

Arctos already owns minority shares in three NBA teams including the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, and the Philadelphia 76ers, several MLB teams including the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs, and the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC of the English Premiere League, various NHL teams, and Real Salt Lake.

“We believe in Utah and all the amazing things happening in the state and we believe SEG is poised to be the next big sports and entertainment group,” Chad Hutchinson of Arctos Sports said in the August release.

To hear the entirety of Friedman’s conversation with Scott and Anderson, check out the audio player above.

Listen to Jake & Ben on weekdays from 10 a.m. to Noon (MDT) on KSL Sports Zone and click here to subscribe to the show’s podcast.

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Hockey Insider: Ryan Smith Is ‘Kind Of Guy’ NHL Wants