Tony Finau's agent reportedly tapped for top hockey position with Utah's NHL franchise

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's new NHL franchise reportedly has its first hire since relocating from the Valley of the Sun, and he has plenty of connections to Ryan Smith.

Wasserman executive vice president/talent and innovation Chris Armstrong has reportedly accepted a new position as alternate governor and "top hockey decision-maker" for the new NHL franchise in Utah under Utah Jazz co-owners Ryan and Ashley Smith, as first reported by Sports Business Journal.

The formal title has yet to be approved, according to SBJ, but Utah general manager Bill Armstrong (no relation) — who came with the club from Arizona — will report to the new hire. Chris Armstrong plans to leave Wasserman at the end of May to formally join the franchise, TSN's Pierre LeBrun confirmed.

But the former Armstrong and Smith shared a significant history, primarily through PGA Tour golfer Tony Finau. The Rose Park native has been represented by the Wasserman executive for several years, while Smith has played with Finau in several pro-am events and local mini-tour tournament in and around Utah.

Recently, Armstrong has helped represent Finau through a lawsuit against the Utah-born professional golfer and his family by a Salt Lake City businessman asking for $16 million in what he calls unpaid expenses, loans and percentages of winnings, according to the Deseret News.

Armstrong has previously worked in hockey, including representing Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations and general manager Kyle Dubas during 2023 negotiations with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Montreal, Quebec, native helped build the successful talent agency in Canada, including opening an office for the firm in Toronto in 2011 and assisting in the representation of several NHL players.

The Daily Faceoff first reported Sunday that Armstrong attended Game 2 of the Canucks-Oilers playoff series in Vancouver as a guest of Utah GM Bill Armstrong. He also advised Smith in his acquisition of the new NHL franchise, a three-way transaction that bought the rights, players and hockey operations personnel of the former Arizona Coyotes to the new Utah franchise while leaving much of the Coyotes' business operations (including branding) in Arizona for owner Alex Meruelo to try to secure a new stadium for a possible future expansion team in the next five years.

Smith reportedly paid between $1.2-1.3 billion for the team, with $1 billion going to Meruelo via sale and the remainder distributed to NHL owners around the league as a relocation fee, according to ESPN. If Meruelo brings the Coyotes back to the league under terms of the new deal, he will be required to pay back the billion-dollar fee in installments, per the Associated Press.


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