NHL Expansion After Seattle


In a simply few brief years, the NHL has grown from 30 to 32 groups. One of these groups was positioned within the very non-traditional hockey market of Las Vegas. The different was positioned in Seattle — which has lacked an NHL group within the fashionable sports activities period — and not too long ago stuffed its roster by means of the 2021 Expansion Draft.

Seattle Kracken draft picks (L-R) Jordan Eberle, Chris Driedger, Chris Tanev, Jamie Oleksiak, Haydn Fleury and Mark Giordano following the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, July 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI through Getty Images)

Prior to the Golden Knights and Kraken franchise, the NHL final expanded in 2000 with the addition of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. The final of the 4 main North American sports activities to broaden earlier than the Golden Knights have been the National Football League — whose Houston Texans turned official in 2002 — and the National Basketball Association — whose New Orleans Pelicans started that very same yr. The NHL isn’t going to remain at 32 groups endlessly, so when will the following wave of groups come?

When Another League Does It First

With the addition of Seattle, the NHL ties the NFL for many groups with 32. It took nearly 20 years for hockey to catch up, and it’s arduous to think about they’ll overtake any of the opposite leagues anytime quickly. By no means is the NHL enjoying copycat, however till one other league exhibits it might help greater than 32 groups, I don’t anticipate the NHL to experiment. Doing so could be overly formidable for them.

When the Canadian Dollar Stabilizes

Even whereas some dream of European growth, essentially the most logical metropolis for NHL growth is, in fact, Quebec City. The metropolis was the previous house of the Nordiques group and has a brand-new, state-of-the-art, NHL-ready stadium in Videotron Centre. With a fanbase prepared for the return of hockey, what’s holding the NHL again? That could be the economics of the Canadian greenback.

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Lost on the traditional fan is the immense monetary complexities of getting a league that’s half in Canada and half within the United States. Yes, groups aren’t evenly divided between the 2 international locations, however between income and fanbases — you get the purpose. With the Canadian greenback weaker than the United States greenback, it’s not the optimum enterprise scenario for the NHL to broaden north of the border. Remember, it was related conditions that led to the relocation of the unique Winnipeg Jets franchise and the Quebec Nordiques. That’s additionally what derailed Quebec’s most recent expansion bid.

Quebec Nordiques
Nordiques followers have proven up at NHL rinks asking for a group to return to Quebec (Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE)

With the development of Videotron Centre and its lengthy historical past, Quebec City already has a leg up on every other potential Canadian market. With the growth of the Ottawa Senators in 1992 and the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011, Canadian growth isn’t utterly off the NHL’s radar. It’s not a query of if, solely a query of when.

When the United States Markets Emerge

Assume the NHL needs to remain stateside for the foreseeable future. It’s arduous to foretell precisely the place their subsequent group would go. Even if Seattle appeared like a attainable location for many years, the considered a hockey group in Las Vegas would have sounded loopy solely a decade in the past.

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The success of the Golden Knights may persuade the NHL to think about different out-of-the-box markets. That might open the door to any variety of cities. Following the lead of Vegas and Seattle, it is perhaps a metropolis the place minor league hockey was profitable up to now. Although, after having two failed groups up to now 40 years, Atlanta in all probability doesn’t make that shortlist.

One market of curiosity is Houston, Texas. Billionaire Tilman Feritta — who additionally owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets — commented in 2017 he wished to deliver an NHL group to town. The metropolis was previously house to one of many World Hockey Association’s most profitable groups within the Houston Aeros.

Gordie Howe Houston Aeros
Gordie, Mark, and Marty Howe as members of the Houston Aeros (THW Archives)

In 2019, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman denied any present efforts to deliver a group to town. (from ‘NHL Commissioner: No Active Efforts To Bring Team To Houston,’ Houston Chronicle, 5/3/2019) However, in Sep. 2019, Feritta stated he’s still exploring options to deliver an NHL franchise to Houston.

When an Expansion Fee Is Agreed Upon

Bill Foley and the opposite house owners of the Golden Knights paid an impressive $500 million greenback growth payment for his or her new group. During the final wave of NHL growth, that payment was a mere $80 million compared. While which will seem to be a cut price, the preliminary wave of NHL growth — the “Next Six” of 1967 — paid $2 million apiece (from ‘Cost of NHL Expansion Team Goes From $2 million To $500 million,’ Las Vegas Review Journal, 6/22/2016). Accounting for inflation, that will be about $18 million in the present day.

The 1967 growth payment was so low compared as a result of the league and its revenues have been a fraction of what they’re in the present day. As the league grows, the growth payment will improve. Vegas and Seattle are thought of the identical “wave” of growth, because the NHL dedicated to 2 groups. When they contemplate growth once more, who is aware of what that payment will climb to.

When Would it Happen?

The fortunate information for potential growth franchise house owners is that after the success of the Golden Knights, the NHL is driving an growth excessive. If Seattle experiences related outcomes, the timetable may very well be a number of years if the NHL needs to maintain the ball rolling. Don’t anticipate Bettman to hurry something out of impulse, nevertheless.

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Commissioner Gary Bettman (Credit: Alex Busch/Staff)

We even have to think about the factor each hockey fan hates to consider: a lockout. With the present NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) extension expiring in 2026, one other lockout could also be on the close to horizon. If a lockout does occur, anticipate the NHL to shelve any concepts of increasing to new cities. Even if a lockout is prevented, how the problem of future growth is addressed — if it even is addressed — in discussions for a brand new CBA will give us a greater concept of how a lot of a precedence each the league and gamers contemplate it.


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