Summer Ramblings, Vol. 15

Las Vegas? Hockey? Hockey? In Las Vegas? Is it the plot of the next Hangover movie or an actuality that we can expect in 2017 from the NHL?

Let’s discuss a topic that I’ve been busy digesting since it first surfaced one week ago. That topic is of course the recently suggested NHL expansion to not one, not two, not even three, but four locations: Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City, and Toronto.

This story kicked off on my watch with a report that an NHL expansion to Las Vegas was a, “done deal,” according to sources. No word if those sources were these guys or not but, fact of the matter was, that triggered more response on the matter of league expansion with the other proposed cities entering the mix – including a date of 2017 in mind.

The NHL league offices had a response to the Las Vegas “done deal” report. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Sports Illustrated that, “It’s not in our plans, there is absolutely nothing new in that.” He also cooled thoughts on a franchise such as the Florida Panthers packing up and heading West in that same article.

It is all very cloudy days for this idea of a 2017 NHL expansion. My thoughts on the matter consist of a multitude of questions on the proposed expansion. Does the NHL really need an expansion of any type? Is there a better possibility for particular teams to move rather than add more bulk to the league? If this were all set in stone fact, does Toronto really need another team – would a professional franchise survive in Las Vegas – does this mean another divisional realignment? I could rattle on and on and on.

Out of the four proposed expansion cities there are two that I think would work rather well: Seattle and Quebec. Seattle, on location alone, presents a great city and location to create good new rivalries on the West Coast. And for Quebec – some may say it’s long overdue to get hockey back there in the same vein as the Winnipeg Jets franchise might echo.

Toronto? They have the Maple Leafs with a nearby rival in the Ottawa Senators. Is another team in the same city as a long standing original six franchise really going to be all that popular among fans in Toronto? If the NHL had that rationale they may as well plop another franchise in Chicago for a laugh and the money.

Las Vegas is a really fascinating location for any professional sports franchise. It just hasn’t been all that tested. No offense Las Vegas Outlaws. I want to say, of all professional sports in North America, that less stupid activities within that city would occur with hockey players. Yet, there is plenty of potential headaches to deal with. One of them might just be the appeal of even having a professional franchise in such a tourist location. What would the long term draw be for a Las Vegas hockey team? Are we talking about something that hits the ground running and stays or just another desert based calamity of poor fan support? After all, the last season the newly named Arizona Coyotes weren’t in the bottom three of league attendance was in 2006-07 when they finished a strong twenty-fourth out of thirty teams. In short, it’d be fun to see if it could work – it just probably would plummet financially like, I don’t know, the Coyotes have year after year.

What are your impressions of a possible NHL expansion? Will it happen? Should it happen? Which of the four cities would you most like to see gain a hockey franchise?

5 thoughts on “Summer Ramblings, Vol. 15”

  1. There are a couple of other cities that Daniel Lavender left off of his list that have been linked to expansion in past years. I ranked them below based on their likelihood of getting a NHL franchise.
    1. Kansas City, Missouri
    2. Portland, Oregon
    3. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
    4. Hamilton, Ontario
    5. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    Here are three teams most hotly linked to recent relocation rumors.
    1. Florida Panthers
    2. Arizona Coyotes
    3. Carolina Hurricanes

    Maybe the NHL doesn’t really need expansion, and 30 teams are enough. But considering the potential windfall to NHL ownership for adding teams, and you can almost bet on the NHL expanding soon. 32 or 34 teams seems like the next logical step, and if you believe some of the reports surfacing, it might happen as soon as 2016-2017 in the NHL’s centennial year.

    Here is my quick evaluation of all nine potential cities (my list and Daniel’s) in order from most likely to get a team by 2025 to least likely:

    1. SEATTLE
    At this point Seattle seems like the most likely city to receive an expansion franchise. Forget about the 14/16 east/west NHL alignment balance, this just seems like a great spot for an NHL team and would form a natural geographic rivalry with Vancouver. Plus it represents another strong American TV market. However, the city and current ownership groups seem much more interested in getting a NBA team first, then adding an NHL team as an additional building tenant. The biggest hurdle here is that there is no real NHL-ready building at this point, and that always a big NHL no-no. Likelihood of getting an NHL team before 2025: 8.5 out of 10.

    Quebec City has made all the right moves as far as generating interest in getting a new NHL team in town. First off the city will soon have an NHL-ready building. Second, the area has huge interest in getting back an NHL team (Winnipeg’s attendance success only encourages the NHL to think seriously about going back to Quebec). However, the one issue that really has not been brought up in this discussion? Many NHL players had little interest in playing in the French-majority speaking city during its past incarnation as the Nordiques. Likelihood of getting an NHL team by 2025: 8.0 out of 10.

    3. LAS VEGAS
    Sin City ticks off many of the boxes for a professional franchise. It will soon have a building capable of hosting an NHL team. It has a large population that could be support a professional franchise, where currently there is not one for any of the big four sports. But there are a lot of obvious drawbacks here as well. Personally, I just don’t see how it could work long term, but that does not mean that the NHL is not interested in trying it out with the right ownership group. Likelihood of getting an NHL team by 2025: 7.0 out of 10.

    For me this is the location that actually makes the most sense. The Toronto Maple Leafs have had an iron fist in control of the biggest hockey market in the world. Toronto’s ticket prices are outrageous, while demand is still off the charts for a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year. This market could easily handle two or even three teams as there is much more interest in hockey here than in either New York or LA/Anaheim, and a huge population base. Likelihood of getting an NHL by 2025: 5.0 out of 10.

    Kansas City has a building just waiting for an NHL team, and has drawn big crowds for preseason games. The Scouts failed miserably there, but like Atlanta and Minnesota during the last round of expansion, this might be a place worth another shot. However, St. Louis, despite its recent success, is still one of the league’s least valuable franchises (28th out of 30 according to Forbes). Likelihood of getting an NHL by 2025: 2.5 out of 10.

    The NHL has inexplicably avoided the Northwest for far too long. Vancouver and San Jose are two of the NHL’s model franchises, while Seattle and Portland are both growing cities with young and vibrant populations. If Seattle succeeds with an NHL team, look for Portland to follow suit in future years. Likelihood of getting an NHL by 2025: 2.0 out of 10.

    Just a few years back another Canadian market, Saskatoon, was a hot topic as far as possible NHL relocation, as it was brought up by a potential Phoenix ownership group that wished to host five NHL games for the Coyotes in the city. Preseason NHL games have been successful in the city, and there is a building with capacity of 15,195 currently available. This is a long shot for now, but if the NHL Sunbelt struggles again in future years, Saskatoon might resurface as an NHL destination. Likelihood of getting an NHL by 2025: 1.5 out of 10.

    Blackberry mogul Jim Balsillie has tried in vain to move three different NHL franchises to the city in past years, even selling season tickets at one point after reaching a purchase agreement. The big issue here is location, with a potential team set to be located almost exactly in between Toronto and Buffalo. Attendance likely would not be an issue for this hockey mad area, but the quality of the current building, and the stability of the Sabres certainly are big concerns. Likelihood of getting an NHL by 2025: 1.0 out of 10.

    Milwaukee, like Cleveland, Baltimore and Houston and a few other American cities have been linked in various capacities to NHL franchises in the past. One of the big issues facing Milwaukee (the same issue plaguing the Bucks) is the NHL-readiness of an arena in town, but with the Bucks walking down the road toward a new building, all of sudden, Milwaukee might reenter the picture as a potential NHL destination as a joint tenant. The recent success of the nearby Blackhawks certainly does not hurt. This is fun to think about, even if it is an unlikely scenario. Likelihood of getting an NHL by 2025: 1.0 out of 10.

  2. I think that the NHL should not expand past 32 teams. You could have 2 relocations and 2 new teams. I think Seattle and QC get the next 2 teams, by whatever means. I think LV is a poor choice for an NHL team. The fact that none of the other “Big 4” pro sports want to have a team there should tell the NHL something. KC or Portland seem like good locations, esp after Seattle.

    I thought that the Bucks don’t want a hockey team in “their” new building.

  3. Thw nhl should not expand. The limited talent pool is already stretched/watered dawn. The best thing they could do is move suffering teams to some of the cities mentioned above especially MKE. That half an ass Wirtz is dead so he wont be in the way this time. Also i like the idea of Portland getting a team and name it after the region (Northwest) similar to how NE Patriots are.
    Im a habs fan when it comes to the NHL so the idea of Quebec getting a team again gets me very geeked.

  4. Adsfan you are right the bucks don’t want to share an arena with a hockey so you can wipe MKE off the board. Seattle will get a team and KC makes sense too.

  5. Moving teams is logical, but moving NHL teams should also force the hand of the AHL into expansion of the East coast teams traveling west to allow the midwest and West coast teams to have NHL & AHL clubs in proximity. How can a player fly from the East coast & be expected to contribute the same day on the opposite side of the country without jetlag. Lets see the East coast teams play everyone in the league.

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