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2024 – Coyotes move | Good words for hockey in Utah

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Can hockey work in Utah? Jordan Martel thinks so.



This forward from Saguenay is one of dozens of players to skate in the state since the Utah Grizzlies were founded in 1995. The ECHL club plays its games at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, about a 15-minute drive from Salt Lake City, where the Arizona Coyotes must relocate for next season.

From a distance, you might think that basketball and skiing are the only popular sports in this corner of America, but Jordan Martel says that's not true.

PHOTO JEANNOT LÉVESQUE, LE QUOTIDIEN ARCHIVE

Jordan Martel

“It's a really good sports town and they love hockey there,” said Martel, who became a member of the Wheeling Nailers this season after being traded from the Grizzlies in December. It is a city that is also very beautiful and very clean. Honestly, I think the Coyotes guys will like this! »

The 26-year-old played two seasons in Utah in 2022 and 2023 and remembers a very well-attended arena. This season, the Grizzlies averaged 6,003 fans per game, their best average since the 2002-2003 season.

Will these fans all come to Salt Lake City when the first puck drops there in October? Jordan Martel thinks so.

PHOTO RICK BOWMER, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Downtown Salt Lake City

Good audience

“It’s an audience that knows hockey and loves hockey,” he adds. When I played there, it was always in front of a very good crowd, often between 6,000 and 8,000 people [le Maverik Center peut accueillir 12 000 personnes]. I wouldn't be surprised if NHL hockey could work there.

“I remember a very engaged crowd during our games. They are hockey fans like we find in Quebec. What I noticed above all is that they really like the robust game there, they like it when it's quite physical and even when there can be fights. I can't say anything negative about the world there! »

According to Jordan Martel, it's a safe bet that once the shock of the move wears off, the Coyotes players will truly love their new surroundings. Especially since the players from Arizona have had to make do with skating on the ice at the very modest Mullett Arena for two years.

You can now move into the otherwise professional comforts of the Delta Center, which is also home to the NBA's Utah Jazz.

“The Coyotes guys are going to like it, that’s for sure,” Jordan Martel concluded. While I was there I talked a lot with the Grizzlies guys and without exception all the players loved playing there. Additionally, Salt Lake City is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains. I have never heard a single bad comment about this city. »

Ice fishing and golf

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE UTAH GRIZZLIES

Charles-Édouard D'Astous

Charles-Édouard D'Astous also had nothing but good words for Salt Lake City, where he wore the Grizzlies' colors for 70 games in 2021-2022. What did he like best?

” Visibility. It's 25°C, you look into the distance and see snow in the mountains. I haven't skied, but if you want you can go skiing in the morning and play golf in the afternoon. There aren't many places in the world , where this is possible. One day during the playoffs we went ice fishing and the next day we played golf.

“It's one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the United States, but no one goes there, we all go to Western Canada! Park City is like Tremblant. »

The Rimouskie, who spent the last two seasons in Finland, also remembers a crowd that loved his hockey, even if he saw smaller crowds in his time.

“We had around 4,000 people per game. It's good for the ECHL. It seemed quiet because it was a big arena. But in the semifinals, during the series, we had 10,000 people. I couldn't tell. I don't know if the ECHL team will stay. But they will have people. It's still the National League. I wouldn't bet $100 on it being a huge market like Montreal or Toronto, but people are still interested. But for us, for the ECHL, people supported us. »

Although he did not play at the Delta Center, D'Astous was still able to attend the arena as a spectator.

“I looked at a few games Basketball. Beautiful arena, super nice. There were often concerts. It's fun, it's downtown, you can go for a beer afterwards.

“It was built for shows and basketball. But an arena is okay. The NHL came to play preseason games. I wasn't there, but I saw photos and there were people there. It was a good fit. From what I remember from the photos, it wasn't like Barclay Center with corners where you couldn't see the ice. »

With Guillaume Lefrançois, The press