Utah has an NHL team. Will people go to the games?

Fans cheer at the Delta Center as Utah’s NHL hockey team is introduced to fans on April 24. Will people go to the games?

Fans cheer at the Delta Center as Utah’s NHL hockey team is introduced to fans on April 24. Will people go to the games? (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Within an hour of receiving an email about season tickets for Utah's new NHL team, Kyle Boyd had his name on the list to buy some.

The 52-year-old Sandy resident developed a love for hockey in his late teens, bolstered during his Latter-day Saint mission in Montreal. He was in what is widely considered the birthplace of the sport when the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1993 — the last time a club north of the border took the title.

Boyd describes his fandom as "midway between casual and fanatic" and cheers for Montreal, Boston and Vegas. He has attended NHL games in several cities but only once before lived in a locale that had a team. The Phoenix Coyotes' move to Salt Lake City gives him a hometown team to root for.

This week, Boyd secured his season tickets in a shared arrangement with two others. The trio split the $10,500 cost for two lower bowl seats for preseason and regular season home games. That comes out to $129 per ticket.

"It's something I've wanted my whole life, ever since I became a hockey fan as a late teenager. I've always wanted to live somewhere where I had an opportunity to go to multiple games for the home team," he said.

Boyd and his seatmates are among thousands of Utahns who say they will follow the team and attend games.

Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute of Politics gauged fan interest in the Utah Hockey Club in a new poll that found 78% of Utahns have heard about the team.

In the survey, 4% say they would buy season tickets, while 5% plan to attend more than 10 games a year. Another 13% would be in the stands for five to 10 games. Four in 10 would go to less than five games and nearly the same number wouldn't attend any games at all.

HarrisX conducted the online poll of 889 Utah adults June 4-7. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Smith Entertainment Group declined to comment about the poll's findings.

Utah has an NHL team. Will people go to the games?

Demand for tickets

Hockey fans embraced the team from the moment owner Ryan Smith announced in April he was bringing the Coyotes to Utah. Utahns enthusiastically welcomed players and coaches at a celebration at the Delta Center that head coach André "Bear" Tourigny called "my best day in the NHL so far." Thousands have expressed opinions in the team's online survey to find a name. And they're plunking down cash for tickets.

SEG has reached 34,000 deposits for season tickets and expects to sell out the 10,000 season tickets it made available before the season starts this fall, leaving about 6,000 single-game tickets. Single-game tickets will go on sale later this summer.

"The overwhelming support we received from fans who secured season ticket deposits highlights how passionate Utahns are for hockey and how excited they are for the NHL experience," Chris Barney, SEG chief commercial officer, said in a press release last week announcing the ticket sales. "We look forward to filling Delta Center and creating an electrifying atmosphere for our fans and players alike when the puck hits the ice this fall. Together, we will build a strong legacy for our NHL franchise that lasts for generations to come."

The poll found that 54% of Utahns will closely or somewhat closely follow the team, while 27% won't follow closely and 19% won't follow at all. People ages 35-49 expressed the most interest in following the team, while those over 65 the least. People in the 35-49 age group were also more likely to buy season tickets or attend games.

Also, urban and suburban residents would follow the team and go to games more than rural residents, according to the poll.

Utah has an NHL team. Will people go to the games?

What the NHL thinks about Utah so far

On Wednesday, the NHL announced that the league and SEG have closed its transaction in announced April establishing the Utah Hockey Club. The Coyotes have now transferred their hockey assets, including their full reserve list, roster of players, draft picks and hockey operations, to the Utah franchise. At the same, the team revealed its uniform design and colors — rock black, salt white and mountain blue — for the 2024-25 season.

At a press conference ahead of the Stanley Cup Final last weekend, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about the progress the Utah franchise has made since so far.

"I think things are going even better than we could have hoped based on the short time frame that they've had to work with," he said. "They're literally drinking from a fire hose, and they're doing it unbelievably well."

The NHL overall is also doing well, though Bettman tapped the brakes on expansion, saying at the press conference the league continues to deal with "expressions of interest" but "we're not going to — at least at this point — unveil a formal process."

Front Office Sports reported that regular season attendance for 2023–24 hit a record 22.56 million and revenue reached an unprecedented $6.2 billion. The NHL playoffs averaged 1.3 million viewers per game through the conference finals, up 14% from a year ago and the highest in the U.S. since 1996. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final posted a 12% boost in viewership to an average of 3.1 million viewers.

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll in May 2023 — when there was speculation about Utah trying to land an NHL team — yielded similar results to the new survey.

According to that poll, 43% of Utahns said they would never go to a game, while 41% would attend less than five games a season. Another 10% say they would see five to 10 games. And 3% each say they would go to more than 10 hockey games a year or buy season tickets.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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