Utah ‘ready for hockey,’ local historian says


It’s been more than 22 years since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished at Rice-Eccles Stadium on the campus of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City and the surrounding area having lived a magical time during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

That the symbolic flame long ago flickered out did little to cool hockey enthusiasm here. But who back then would have guessed it would be on an NHL rink that the next elite-game puck would be dropped in this mountain-curtained city?

On Thursday, that became a reality when the NHL Board of Governors approved a the establishing of an NHL franchise in Utah starting next season. The Arizona franchise will become inactive, with an opportunity for Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo to reactivate should he build a suitable arena within five years. 

You’ll be hard-pressed to name a more impressive hat trick than the 2002 Winter Olympics, the transplanted Arizona Coyotes arriving in 2024-25, and quite likely the 2034 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City last November named the preferred host by the International Olympic Committee.

Dave Soutter, a Salt Lake City native who has played recreationally, coached at various levels and worked with the minor-pro Salt Lake Golden Eagles and Utah Grizzlies, fondly recalls the fabulous hockey that was played during the 17-day quadrennial multisport festival in 2002, Canada’s men’s and women’s teams each winning Olympic gold in championship games against the U.S.

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