Well in case you were off the grid for the last 5 days, it might be news to you that Gary Bettman announced that the NHL will be officially accepting expansion Applications from July 6th to August 10th. This comes as no surprise to those of us that have been following the story for the last 7 months as all leading indicators were forecasting some kind of an announcement during the Board of Governors meeting in late June. As the Puck Daddy article mentions, expansion fees are expected to be in the $500M range and the soonest the teams would be added to the league would be for the 2017-18 season.
Las Vegas, Seattle and Quebec City appear on the top of most people’s list of candidates but there are a few others out there that may throw their hat in the ring. Here is my assessment of the possible expansion cities.
Seattle is one of the top 3 candidates for expansion and there is no doubt the league would like to be in Seattle. We anticipate up to two potential NHL expansion applications, one from Victor Coleman (SoDo Arena) and one from Ray Bartoszek (Tukwila). Last we heard, Victor Coleman and Sodo land owner and would be NBA franchise owner, Chris Hansen, have not come to terms on a go forward plan but deadlines like the NHL application process might help bridge the gap sooner than later. Meanwhile, the Bartoszek group is moving forward on the Tukwila plan but it is still going through the early approval stages. Both groups have their own set of arena challenges that may require some kind of conditional approval from the NHL, similar to the approach done for the Columbus Blue Jackets when they were awarded a franchise.
Potential franchise owner, Quebecor, has confirmed that they will be formally applying for an NHL Franchise in Quebec. Their arena is furthest along of all cities, they have a great NHL fan base, and should be a strong candidate for expansion. Bettman acknowledge that the division balance of teams is not a requirement of the league but it still might not be preferred.
“One of the factors that you would obviously consider in any expansion process is what your footprint looks like and what the alignment would be. I don’t think you expand just for notions of symmetry.
It’s too important, the business decision. But obviously as we go through the process, if there’s an interest in moving forward, that’s an issue you have to deal with.” – Gary Bettman
A lagging Canadian Dollar might be another reason to give the NHL pause and the league might want to keep Quebec open for a possible relocation scenario should one of the eastern teams falter. Either way, Quebec remains a strong candidate and if Seattle trips up, I think QC will get a team.
Bill Foley’s ticket drive in Las Vegas has been well publicized and acknowledge as a success by the NHL. With an arena set to open before the would be 2017-18 season, their odds of getting a team is pretty strong.
Greater Toronto Area
It appears that Graeme Roustan will be putting in an application for the GTA area. The Roustan plan might not have much of a chance but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else from the GTA might put an application together. With no arena plan even on the table, anything in GTA seems like a long shot but the market could certainly support another team.
Best of the rest
Portland has been flying under the radar and will probably continue to do so but I would never rule them out with Paul Allen in the possible mix. It isn’t widely known but Allen was dancing with the idea of purchasing the Coyotes back in 2013. If Allen wants a team, I am pretty sure he could get one.
Kansas City is often cited as a city with an arena but no anchor tenant that would be a decent fit for the NHL. Yet no owner has emerged over the last couple years and no one has come out to say they will be applying for NHL expansion. Someone sent this article over to me that points out that they are developing a hockey culture in Kansas City. Great to see the development.
Houston although a gigantic market, interest in the NHL remains quiet. With the Aeros leaving last year, it appears this is not the time.