If you followed the NHL season then you know what a historic Stanley Cup it was. No other NHL expansion team in recent memory has ever done as well as the Vegas Golden Knights. Not only did the brand-new team manage to make it all the way to the Stanley Cup, they were also had the 4th highest fan attendance percentage throughout the season. Who knew a tourist city in the middle of the desert would become a hot market for ice hockey.
Whether Vegas’ immediate popularity should be attributed to their success on the ice or the drastic popularity increase the NHL has been experiencing, the league’s expansion clearly paid off. Due to the huge expansion success, the Seattle NHL talk has been reignited. Seattle has long been considered the most obvious NHL expansion destination. Although there has been no official announcement by the NHL, President and CEO of Seattle’s NHL group, Tod Leiweke, is confident the league will approve their expansion request by the fall.
“Fingers crossed on the September deadline,” said Leiweke. Also mentioning facilities, Leiweke mentioned, “We have a vision of a world-class training facility that will be home to our team.”
Fortunately, Seattle already has a professional sports arena that is only being used by their WNBA team and an all-women roller derby team. Since the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2009, KeyArea has been criminally underused. With proper renovations, Seattle would finally utilize the 15,177 capacity arena to its full potential once again.
The Other Option
While Seattle seems likely to acquire an NHL team by 2020, it may not be the only city that will get one. Although there are cities that have been eager to join the NHL for a while, it doesn’t mean they are a good fit. Quebec City for instance, has been trying to get an NHL team since they lost the Quebec Nordiques to Colorado (Avalanche) in 1995. Although a Canadian city would make sense, Boston Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs has a different opinion.
“Quebec is challenged, OK, I’m going to put it nicely. They’re challenged,” Jacobs said. “Look at the income base and the population base and there probably isn’t a smaller market, so they’re going to really have to distinguish themselves in some other way, I would think.”
A surprising alternative option has recently formed; Houston, Texas. Once the Houston restaurant mogul and TV show host, Tilman Fertitta, purchased the Rockets and the Toyota Center, he made his interest in the NHL clear.
— Tilman Fertitta (@TilmanJFertitta) November 16, 2017
Although Houston, Texas doesn’t seem like an ideal hockey town, neither did Las Vegas prior to this season. There is already one NHL team in Texas, the Dallas Stars. Unfortunately, Houstonians would sooner cheer for the Russian National Hockey Team before anything in Dallas. This would instantly create an excellent hockey rivalry, which would potentially increase the Stars attendance as well.
There has even been discussion of the Calgary Flames being potentially purchased by Fertitta as the first NHL team in Houston. A once southern team based in Atlanta, the flames could return to their hot-weather roots in the Bayou City and put their name back to good use. Calgary reporter, Eric Francis, first reported the idea in an article discussing the financial troubles that loom over the franchise with the increased value of every NHL team through the $500 million price tag of Vegas and the potential $650 million in Seattle.
“The answer is Houston, which is where my money says the Flames will be within the next three years,” said Francis. “As sad as that is for Canadian hockey fans to hear.”
With over 2 million citizens, Houston is the largest city without an NHL team. It’s nearly four times the size of Seattle or Las Vegas. It has a great climate for visitors during cold seasons, excellent facilities and an engaged and passionate new owner. Not to mention the capital to actually afford a team.
Bottom line: Seattle would surely make a great hockey city but Houston is too big not to have an NHL team. That is why both Houston and Seattle deserve an NHL expansion team.
Be sure to checkout Chairgatin’ for more updates and rumors on anything sports, video games, racing, movies or TV related. For more information on a future Houston NHL team, head over to NHL To Houston. They are the leading voice in the activism of finally bringing professional hockey to the largest city in the Lone Star State.