Now that the city of Seattle is confirmed as the location for the NHL’s 32nd team to start play in 2021, it’s time to planning for teams 33 and 34 right? Surely Gary Bettman and the NHL are already scouting which locations should get the next pair of NHL franchi…
Bettman says the NHL is not looking at further expansion at this point. 32 teams for the foreseeable future
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 4, 2018
Sorry Quebec City.
Ok, so even if NHL expansion was still on Gary’s to-do list, it would have still been four or five seasons away from simply being announced and likely a couple of years after that from hitting the ice. (Again, sorry Quebec City) but hey, you never know right? There is already talk of yet another labour stoppage which could affect things (would the players union give in on some parts of negotiations if the NHL agreed to add 44 more player jobs?) and it’s really the easiest way for the league to add $650 million to it’s pockets.
So where should the NHL go next? There are a handful of cities that have been near begging to a piece of the NHL pie, and other locations who maybe not come to mind right away but could be interesting spots for a new franchise.
5 Likely Destinations
Quebec City – In a move reminiscent of what was tried in both Hamilton and Saskatoon in the 1980’s, Quebec City – without any assurances from the NHL – just went ahead and built an NHL quality rink with the words “if you build it, they will come” ringing in their head. It’s a tad surprising the NHL hasn’t returned to the city, but at the same time there have been whispers that there isn’t enough corporate backing behind the club.
Houston – Houston is a tremendous sports city that supported their AHL club when it was there and has been itching for an NHL franchise for quite a while. There would be an instant rivalry with Dallas and the support would be there, but Houston also likes to back a winner so any club put there should hope for a bit of the Vegas Golden Knights luck to transfer over to Space City
Kansas City – Kansas City has itself a fancy as heck arena that was built thinking that it would automatically attract either the NHL or NBA or both, but none of those things have happened. Kansas City does have a little bit of NHL history – albeit not very noteworthy – and it feels like a bit of an under-utilized market in terms of pro-sports and an NHL club could get a bunch of fan support if they get there before the NBA does.
Toronto (or Hamilton) – Look, nobody likes to talk about Toronto as the center of the universe, but if New York can support two (three really with the Devils) teams then there is zero reason why Toronto or the GTA can have a second club. Maybe you finally let Hamilton into the league. Of course, both the Maple Leafs and Sabres (and to some extent even the Red Wings) may feel as though one more team in the area is one too many.
Hartford- There has been some noise made in recent years that Hartford would like to see a return of the NHL with talk of a new arena and overtures made towards existing NHL teams like the New York Islanders to relocate to Connecticut. Beyond needing a new arena, would corporate support be there?
5 Questionable Choices…
Saskatoon (or Saskatchewan) – The province of Saskatchewan is as passionate for the sport of hockey as any in Canada, but they don’t have a single market that would be big enough to carry a franchise on their own? Sure, the whole province would rally behind the team like the CFL Roughriders, but asking out of town fans to brave questionable winter driving conditions 41 times a year may be asking a bit much.
Europe – Look, the NHL has to be doing these overseas games for a reason, right? European teams or a European division with multiple teams has been an idea tossed around since the 1990’s, but it would be a rather large undertaking and maybe a bit of a nightmare for travel.
Cleveland – Once upon a time back in the early days of NHL expansion when the league was anticipating going from six to 12 teams, it was thought that Cleveland would be a bit of a lock to land an NHL club. They eventually got the Oakland/California Golden Seals, but the club was already such a mess that they lasted just two more seasons before being completely disbanded. A new fresh start in Cleveland – and a built in rivalry with Columbus – would maybe help matters the second time around.
San Diego – The San Diego Gulls of the AHL have seen consistently high attendance since their return and with no pro sport franchise to compete against an NHL team could do surprisingly well there.
Atlanta – Third time would have to be the charm, right? If it doesn’t work out, maybe you can move them to Hamilton or Saskatoon because as we all know, Atlanta hockey teams don’t die, they just move to Canada.
Even if the NHL really doesn’t want to do the expansion thing for a while, there are still current teams that have less than ideal situations going on that might force a relocation, so if you don’t want to think of expansion, think of relocation and what team you’d move where.
JetsNation, today’s WWYDW (which yes, is on a Thursday) is all about where should the NHL go next? Which cities should get new (or if you want, pre-existing) teams?