With the recent additions of the Vegas Golden Knights and the Seattle Kraken to the NHL, we can’t help but wonder where the league will go next. Although another round of expansion is unlikely to happen anytime soon, there’s all sorts of talk about the Arizona Coyotes possibly having to relocate and there is the potential for the NHL, when revenues go up and the pandemic doesn’t pose such a concern, to look at other locations down the line. Here’s a look at some locations that could eventually get NHL teams.
Quebec City, Quebec
Okay, we’ll start with the obvious. Ever since the Nordiques left Quebec in 1995, the fans have wanted them back. There was no rivalry quite like that of the Nordiques and Montreal Canadiens. Now that the NHL is doing everything they can to promote rivalries, a Quebec City return would be awesome. They have the biggest arena in Canada that’s not currently hosting an NHL team. The Videotron Centre, which holds over 18,000 fans, is perfect for NHL play. The question is not “If”- the question is “When?”.
Portland has had a strong hockey fanbase for over 50 years with the Winterhawks, and it’s about time for them to prove that they can support an NHL team. The city is already home to the NBA’s Trailblazers, who do quite well.
It’s no secret that the NHL needs more teams in the Pacific Northwest, as those are the teams that have to travel the most, which puts them at a disadvantage. The additions of teams in Seattle and Las Vegas are a huge step in the right direction, and Portland should be next.
Salt Lake City, Utah
The past few pre-seasons (excluding 2021, which didn’t have a pre-season), have seen NHL games played in Salt Lake City between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. Having been to one of the games myself, I can affirm that Utah can fill a building. The Salt Lake valley is comprised of a number of highly-populated cities that are practically touching, similar to the Greater Vancouver area. They’re already home to the NBA’s Jazz, and could be ready to host a team in the NHL.
Kansas City, Missouri
Once upon a time, the Kansas City Scouts graced the NHL with some of the best jerseys it’s ever seen. When the team was unsuccessful, it moved to Colorado, and later to New Jersey, where it remains. Although it didn’t work out this last time around, it very well could the next time. The city is home to T-Mobile Center, with a capacity of about 18,500. The city also plays host to the NFL’s Chiefs and the MLB’s Royals.
Whether Houston or one of the other major cities in Texas, the state is ready for another NHL team. The Dallas Stars have seen steady success, and there are several other cities that easily have the population for it. California and Florida have similar weather to Texas, and each have multiple NHL teams. Texas is home to 8 major-league sports teams already, and it’s ready for one more.
The NHL wants a team in Houston. They know the market is big and the league likes expanding to big-city markets, even if they don’t appear to be natural fits on the surface.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are consistently one of the most profitable teams in the NHL, to the point where many fans can’t afford to buy tickets because the demand is so high. The NHL has had two teams in New York city for over half a century, and they could easily do the same in the Toronto area. This would create a massive rivalry for the NHL. There’s a huge fanbase of anti-Maple Leafs fans, so-much-so that a new team might be just as financially successful as the Leafs.
Mexico City, Mexico
We’ve seen over and over again that hockey can, in fact, survive in hot places. It could also very well survive in a non-traditional hockey country. Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, with over 21 million people in the metropolitan area.
The other major pro sports leagues in North America have each been rumoured to be considering Mexican expansion for years now. The NHL would be smart to watch how that goes, if it does happen. If basketball, football, and baseball are successful in Mexico, hockey could be too. If hockey is successful in Mexico, the boudaries are endless: This could turn into a world-wide league.
At last, the age-old debate: Can- and should- the NHL expand into Europe? The League has had games in various major European cities, and even a few against local teams. Europe already has many professional hockey leagues, but the NHL is special. There’s a reason all the best players come to North America. With the NHL in Europe, players wouldn’t have to.
Of course, there are huge questions in play when it comes to cost and exhaustion, but those are things that could be figured out if the League decided to try it out. How cool would it be to see a playoff game between Stockholm and Moscow?
Whether or not the NHL wants to expand again in the near future is the main question. But when they’re ready, a plethora of cities is ready to receive them. A major part of Commissioner Gary Bettman’s legacy when he retires will be his ability to introduce hockey into non-traditional markets. He’s done a great job of it already, but there’s much more room to continue the growth of the game.
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