The NHL now has a strong 32 teams, far more than the Original Six, thanks to the recent additions of the Seattle Kraken and Vegas Golden Knights.
Fans and locals start to envision their city’s new team’s logo, name, and, of course, roster when expansion rumors are mentioned. The question is, is your city in line to receive an NHL franchise when expansion occurs? These are the likely contenders.
Quebec City, Quebec
Quebec City, the former home of the Quebec Nordiques, has been clamoring for a new NHL franchise ever since the team’s heartbreaking 1995 move to Colorado. Quebec City is frequently mentioned as a potential location whenever discussions of a new expansion team are brought up.
Due to the size of the population and potential revenue, the league typically favors an American expansion team over a Canadian one. But a new rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens would undoubtedly excite the people of Quebec City.
There are other cities on this list besides Quebec City that would love to have a team return after being moved. From 1979 until 1997, the Whalers called Hartford home before moving to North Carolina to become the Carolina Hurricanes.
Hartford’s proximity to Bristol-based television partner ESPN, which recently began a contract to televise NHL games for the following seven years, is one feature that makes Hartford appealing right now. There may be too much competition in a small market because Hartford has a small population and is also home to the AHL’s Wolfpack.
Gary Bettman, the commissioner, has been open about his desire to enter less conventional American markets, like Las Vegas. Given Texas’ enormous size, it only makes sense to want to increase the hockey population there.
The former Minnesota North Stars were renamed the Dallas Stars in 1993, and they have enjoyed great success. Houston is an excellent choice for expansion given the size of its population and the popularity of the former AHL team Houston Aeros, who moved in 2013.
It makes perfect sense for an NHL team to call Milwaukee its home. Along with the recent NBA champion Bucks and the Green Bay Packers, who have sizable fan bases less than two hours away, there are also the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. Actually, it’s surprising that Milwaukee hasn’t had a team yet.
At the University of Wisconsin, the state is also home to one of the top hockey programs in the country. Natural rivalries between the nearby Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild would be obvious if Milwaukee were to acquire a team.
Kansas City, Missouri
Numerous times, Kansas City has come very close to winning an NHL franchise. Kansas City is frequently brought up when the league discusses potential expansion cities.
The pieces actually fit, despite their previous expansion failure with the Kansas City Scouts, which lasted from 1974 to 1976, though it may be problematic given how close it is to St. Louis. However, the city does have an NHL-sized arena that is prepared to host a potential team. Kansas City might be next on the list if the NHL continues to expand in the near future.
It only stands to reason that the league would want to take advantage of the sheer size and scope of the Ontario province given the popularity of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hamilton, Ontario, close by, has been discussed as a potential expansion site more than once or twice.
The acceptance of a second team by the community is a subject of debate. Nevertheless, Hamilton’s sizeable population and devoted Maple Leaf fan base might draw attention to a local startup.
Another “been there before” potential destination is Cleveland. The California Golden Seals, who relocated after a portion of the initial expansion process didn’t work out, were originally the Barons. The Barons and Minnesota North Stars merged in Cleveland from 1976 to 1978. (now Dallas Stars). Through the years, they have intermittently had an AHL team with some success.
Cleveland has always been primarily a football town. Despite their lack of success, the Browns retained the support of the city even when the Cavaliers and Indians were competing for championships. Therefore, Cleveland might be a long shot for a second chance at a franchise.
Salt Lake City, Utah
With some preseason games having been played in the home arena of the Utah Jazz, Salt Lake City has already experienced hosting NHL games. Numerous factors support the move west, particularly in light of the recent additions of the Seattle Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights.
There are many densely populated cities in the region, including Greater Vancouver, that are relatively close to one another. Although it has only recently gained popularity, it may continue to do so if the league decides to continue playing in the West.
One of those potential locations that makes sense on paper is the former home of the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA. A hockey team in Indianapolis could spark a healthy rivalry between nearby teams like Columbus, Chicago, or Detroit given its Midwest location.
The city’s ability to accommodate a third major team after the NFL’s Colts and the NBA’s Pacers is still an open question. It’s difficult to predict how a team in Indiana would be received because the Midwest has historically been a boom-or-bust region for the league, with Cleveland and Kansas City having short-lived teams.
Given that Seattle, which is close by, has been awarded a franchise, Portland getting a team may no longer be a viable option. However, it is also possible to travel to the city that is growing and the home of Nike.
It would be great to continue American expansion while fostering cross-border rivalries with Vancouver thanks to the region’s roots. Portland might end up being one of those cities that is temporarily put on hold in favor of other, more well-liked candidates.
San Diego, California
The Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks have all contributed to the state of California experiencing its fair share of expansion. More teams moving to California isn’t likely to happen before some of the other states on this list, but San Diego might be a good target in the future.
But given that the NFL’s Chargers recently relocated to nearby Los Angeles, it is more difficult to sell. Getting support for a local hockey team may be difficult because San Diego’s fan base is largely made up of immigrants.
San Francisco, California
Why not aim for one of the largest American cities if you are going to pursue expansion? San Francisco fits that description because there are millions of potential supporters living in the Bay Area, despite the city’s high cost of living.
However, San Diego shares the same issue that San Francisco does. The San Jose Sharks are a close neighbor to the other three California-based franchises. Despite the size of the Golden State, this makes it unlikely that there would be room for another team in Northern California.
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For Canada, the nation that created the sport, the potential for growth must feel greater. Even though Canada has seven teams, there is still a lot of unrealized potential there. Due to the fact that hockey is a way of life in Canada, cities will be more likely to accept an NHL bid.
It would only make sense that Saskatchewan would want a team given the success of the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary in neighboring Alberta. On the short list of potential Canadian cities vying for their own team, it would join Hamilton and Quebec City.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The desire for Canadian expansion would probably be supported by Canadians, just like it was in Saskatoon and Hamilton. Similarly to Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia is a province without an NHL team.
Due to its lower population than almost all other provinces with teams, Nova Scotia faces challenges in building a devoted fan base. Halifax might rank last on the list of the main Canadian cities vying for a franchise.
Compared to other cities on the list, this one requires a little bit more of a stretch. Cincinnati, though located in the middle of Ohio, is considered to be more of a southern region because of how close it is to Kentucky.
The Cyclones, a minor league hockey team, are already present there, so one has to wonder how well an NHL team would perform. Even so, there might be space for a third professional organization given that the city currently only has an NFL and MLB team.