There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about NHL expansion, often revolving around Seattle and Quebec City. Most recently, Howard Bloom from the Sports Business News tweeted on Tuesday that expansion is coming by 2017.
NHL expansion – four teams added by 2017, Quebec City, Toronto, Seattle, and Las Vegas $1.4b in expansion fees
— Howard Bloom (@SportsBizNews) August 27, 2014
Bloom also linked to a piece by Tony Gallagher for The Province that explored some of the possibilities for expansion and relocation throughout the NHL. It’s an interesting time for the league, considering their recent lockout, realignment, and record profits. Is expansion really wise for the tiniest major sport? Probably not. The talent pool is already considered fairly thin. But it’s still fun to discuss. Let’s take a look at the locations being considered for NHL teams.
Seattle has a few things going for it. It’s a highly populated city in the Northwest. They’ve shown their sports fandom with the insufferable 12th Man thing at Seahawks games. The Seattle Sounders get an incredible amount of support, as they averaged over 44,000 fans per game in 2013. Seattle has Vancouver just over the border, for regional rivalry purposes. What’s the problem?
The proposed stadium that is being discussed all depends on an NBA franchise coming to the home of grunge. Seattle dearly misses the SuperSonics, who were moved to Oklahoma City back in 2008. They need their basketball, dammit! But, what if we just bought the SuperSonics back as a hockey team? The SuperSonics are back…in PUCK FORM.
Ah, Vegas. The real city that never sleeps, because they never shut off the lights to make sure that you keep gambling. Las Vegas is often brought up in these discussions and often dismissed due to the existence of a tiny thing called sports gambling. We all know the mafia handles mysterious injuries and athletes throwing games already, so a Las Vegas team isn’t going to make that any worse.
We should welcome a potential Vegas team for the pure gaudy and absurdity factor. They’ll need to be shameless, like an AHL team at the pro level. I want a Las Vegas team to be the opposite of the NHL archetype, welcoming every “enigmatic” and “flashy” player into their organ-eye-zay-shon. Just score, baby!
Quebec has been without a hockey team since the Nordiques moved to Colorado in 1995. They’ve been anticipating a new NHL team since at least 2012, when they broke ground on the New Quebec City Amphitheatre. The city that Lindros refused has a population of 532,354, at least according to the always accurate information that you find on Wikipedia.
I can’t think of any reason that they won’t be getting either a new or relocated franchise soon. A major Canadian city without a hockey team is the saddest thing in the world.
Toronto 2: The Reckoning
Toronto is rumored to be getting a second franchise. They are the one of the biggest cities in North America and are nuts about their Maple Leafs. There’s enough bodies to support them, but will they be able to find enough disenfranchised Leafs fans? This is a franchise that still drew 19,000+ despite missing the playoffs for 7 consecutive seasons. Will the new franchise be forbidden to play on nights when the Leafs play? New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have multiple teams in the same sports. Toronto can easily support two hockey teams.
Kansas City thought they had a hockey franchise coming to them back around 2007. The Pittsburgh Penguins were playing hardball with the state of Pennsylvania and threatened to move away. Kansas City was the top option. The Sprint Center was finished back in 2007, with the ability to seat 17,544 people for hockey. It’s mainly used for concerts, as well as college basketball and other activities. It sure would be nice to have a hockey tenant in there to join the Royals and Chiefs in town.
Kansas City wasn’t mentioned as one of the possibilities for expansion, but, as Gallagher mentioned, there is the chance that the Florida Panthers could move there. The Panthers only averaged 14,177 tickets per game last season in a stadium with a capacity for 19,250. The Panthers claimed at one point that they are losing $20 to $30 million a season in Sunrise. You can’t jump to conclusions and say that hockey in Florida just doesn’t work. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a solid fanbase. The Panthers are a problem.
The primary reason that Gary Bettman has fought to keep the struggling Coyotes in Arizona is because Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the United States. Will Bettman fight for the Panthers, or just let them go the way of the Atlanta Thrashers?
Yes, we see you back there, Hartford, you can put your hand down.
(Additional stick tap to Puck Daddy)