The National Hockey League (NHL) has undergone several rounds of expansion and other organizational changes during its nearly 100-year history to reach its current number of thirty teams: twenty-three in the United States, and seven in Canada. A number of potential owners have sought a franchise for other cities, but as of April 2010, the NHL has repeatedly asserted that is not planning any expansion or franchise moves. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently stated "we're not planning on relocating. We're not planning on expanding. Anyone who wants a franchise really is out of luck for the foreseeable future. [...] If at some point we're in the business of relocating or expanding, we're going to open it up because the number of people and the number of places that want franchises is a fairly lengthy list. "[1] The league made an exception in the case of Winnipeg, Manitoba with Bettman repeatedly having stated a desire to return to the city; the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg for the 2011–12 NHL season.

Two potential ownership groups have submitted applications for prospective teams in Las Vegas and Quebec City. The geographic distribution of teams between the NHL's two conferences is not a primary consideration for expansion, and the earliest time when a new franchise could start play is the 2017–18 season.[2]

Expansion sites within CanadaEdit


Copps Coliseum in Hamilton was built in 1985 with the hope it would help lure an NHL team to the city.

The potential of adding a seventh franchise in Canada had been an ongoing source of controversy for the NHL in recent years as numerous groups proposed expanding the league into a new Canadian city, or purchasing a struggling American franchise and relocating it north; to a certain extent, these issues continue even after the awarding of a seventh franchise to Winnipeg. Quebec City and the Golden Horseshoe area of Southern Ontario are most frequently proposed as locations for new Canadian teams, as was Winnipeg prior to the announced relocation of the Thrashers. Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie has made several significant attempts to bring a team to Hamilton, including a $242.5 million offer in 2009 to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes, immediately after the team filed for bankruptcy protection. Balsillie's efforts have been resisted by the NHL during commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure. Balsillie's latest efforts include a public relations campaign based around Canadian nationalist feelings and the perception that the NHL is "anti-Canadian".


History of Canadian franchises (1967–present)Edit

Throughout the history of the NHL, attempts to bring franchises to Canadian cities have caused points of contention. Vancouver's rejected bid for one of six new franchises added in 1967 outraged Canadians, who felt they had been "sold out". Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson stated that "the NHL decision to expand only in the U.S. impinges on the sacred principles of all Canadians."[3] Three years later, the Vancouver Canucks joined as the league's third Canadian franchise.[4] The 1979 defeat by a single vote of a merger agreement between the NHL and the rival World Hockey Association that would have resulted in three WHA franchises join the NHL led to a mass boycott of Molson products across Canada. In a second vote, the Montreal Canadiens, owned by Molson, reversed their position, allowing the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets to join the NHL for the 1979–80 NHL season.[5] The Calgary Flames became Canada's seventh franchise in 1980, relocating from Atlanta.[6]

The 1990s saw considerable upheaval amongst Canadian franchises. In 1992, the NHL returned to Ottawa, while a potential expansion into Hamilton failed.[7] However, the declining value of the Canadian dollar at that time, coupled with rapidly escalating salaries, placed hardships on Canadian franchises.[8] As a result, the Nordiques and Jets left Canada, becoming the Colorado Avalanche in 1995 and the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996 respectively. Fears persisted up to the 2004–05 NHL lockout that the Flames, Oilers, and Senators could follow suit. The financial fortunes of Canada's teams rebounded following the lockout: Canada's six franchises represented one-third of NHL revenues in 2006–07, primarily on the back of the surging value of the Canadian dollar.[9]

In May 2011, True North Sports and Entertainment, an ownership group with the support of billionaire David Thomson, 3rd Baron Thomson of Fleet, purchased the Atlanta Thrashers with the intention to move the team to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The relocation marks the first franchise relocation since 1997 and the first new Canadian franchise since the Ottawa Senators entered the league in 1992. At the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, it was announced that the team would be named the Jets.

Current views on Canadian expansionEdit

Former National Hockey League Players Association executive director Paul Kelly has repeatedly argued in favour of bringing a new team to Canada. In early 2008, he described the Canadian market to The Palm Beach Post: "The six Canadian franchises do so well, they pack the buildings, get great TV, great revenue streams. If you put another team up there, be it in Nova Scotia or Hamilton, it would be more of the same."[10] Prior to the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke in favour of another team in Canada, stating he has spoken with NHL owners in the past about bringing a new team to southern Ontario.

A study published in April 2011 by the University of Toronto's Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation concluded that Canada can support 12 NHL teams, double the amount it had at the time of the study, including second franchises for Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.[11]


Hamilton mayor Jack MacDonald attempted to lure the Colorado Rockies to Hamilton in 1980, an effort that ended when he lost his re-election bid.

Hamilton was also a candidate for expansion in 1991, being one of the favorites, but it lost out to the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning.[12] Hamilton's bid group attempted to negotiate the $50 million expansion fee; a condition the NHL rejected.[7] While it was speculated that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres did not want an NHL team in Hamilton due to territorial competition, former league president Gil Stein has denied that was the case.[7]

Jim Balsillie

Jim Balsillie has been at the center of three attempts to bring an NHL team to Southern Ontario.

Research In Motion founder and co-CEO Jim Balsillie has made numerous attempts to purchase an existing NHL team with the purpose of bringing it to Southern Ontario. He signed an agreement in principle to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins for US$175 million on October 5, 2006.[13] Penguins' majority owner Mario Lemieux agreed to the sale after struggling to gain support from local governments to build a new arena. Balsillie's purchase agreement offered to help finance a new arena, but also contained a stated intention to relocate the team to Hamilton or Kitchener-Waterloo if no deal on a new arena could be reached.[14] Balsillie later retracted his bid, claiming that the NHL had placed conditions on the sale that he was not comfortable with, including a commitment to keep the team in Pittsburgh under any circumstances.[15]

Balsillie then reached an agreement to purchase the Nashville Predators for $238 million on May 24, 2007, and began a season ticket campaign in Hamilton a week later intended to prove that the city was capable of hosting an NHL team.[13] Thousands of fans purchased tickets, however the sale again fell through a month later when Predators owner Craig Leipold opted to terminate the agreement.[16] The Predators were later sold to a group of ten investors, led by Nashville businessman David Freeman, who promised to keep the team in Nashville.[17] Leipold accepted $40 million less from Freeman's group than Balsillie offered, and later ended up as the majority owner of the Minnesota Wild.[18]

During the 2008–2009 NHL season, the future of the Phoenix Coyotes was on shaky ground as the team expected to lose as much as $45 million, and the league had to step in to assist with paying the team's bills.[18] Coyotes' managing partner Jerry Moyes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early May 2009, and immediately afterwards, an offer by Balsillie to purchase the team was made public.[19] The NHL challenged the Coyotes' ability to file for bankruptcy, claiming that as a result of the financial support the league had been offering the franchise, the league itself is in control of the team, and that Moyes did not have authority to act as he did.[20]

Balsillie's launched a public relations campaign aiming at igniting Canadian nationalistic feelings and the perception that Bettman has an anti-Canadian agenda,[21] including a website. His bid to purchase the Coyotes failed as the bankruptcy judge ruled his offer did not meet the NHL's rules on relocation.[22]

The Hamilton Spectator reported on May 9 that a Vancouver-based group led by Tom Gaglardi was planning to make a bid to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers and relocate the team to Hamilton in time for the 2010–11 NHL season.[23] This never materialized, and the idea was eventually rendered moot by the Thrashers' sale and relocation to Winnipeg.

Under NHL rules, an expansion or relocation of a team to Hamilton could potentially be blocked by the Buffalo Sabres, because Copps Coliseum, the likely venue for a Hamilton NHL team, is located less than 50 miles from the Sabres' home arena.[24] Roughly 15% of the Sabres' business comes from residents of the area of Ontario between Hamilton and Buffalo, and the Sabres could require "an enormous indemnification payment" to allow an additional team to be established within a 50-mile radius.[24]

A pre-season NHL game was played in Hamilton between the Sabres and the Ottawa Senators on September 28, 2010 as part of the Kraft Hockeyville promotion, as a result of the city winning a fan vote. The game was hosted at the much smaller J. L. Grightmire Arena in the Dundas region of the city and not at the Copps Coliseum.[25]

An unnamed bidder made a bid for the Sabres in February 2011, offering $259,000,000 for the team to move it out of Buffalo, which would either mean the team itself would relocate to Hamilton or it would clear the way for another team to make such a move. The bid was rejected in favor of an offer from Terrence Pegula, who planned to keep the team in Buffalo.[26]

A popular choice for a new Hamilton team is the Tigers,[27] the name of an NHL team in the 1920s. However, that name is very similar to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football team, whose name is derived from a Hamilton Tigers football team. While two professional teams sharing names is not unheard of in professional sports, any Hamilton franchise would need to seek permission from the Tiger-Cats to use the Tigers name to avoid any trademark disputes.

Greater Toronto AreaEdit

Despite the fact that Toronto already houses the Toronto Maple Leafs, its suburbs have been mentioned as potential sites for NHL franchises, under the logic that Toronto is the largest metropolitan area in Canada and can support two NHL teams. Unlike other potential expansion markets, a new arena would need to be constructed, and most of the proposals for a new Toronto area team include a new arena along with them.

Toronto Legacy logo

Proposed Toronto Legacy logo

In April 2009, a group of businessmen met with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly to discuss the possibility of bringing a second NHL franchise into the Toronto area, most likely in Vaughan, Ontario. Despite the talks, Daly reportedly stated the NHL is "not currently considering expansion nor do we have any intention or desire to relocate an existing franchise."[28]

In June 2009, a group headed by Andrew Lopez and Herbert Carnegie proposed a $1 billion plan for a second Toronto team, called the Legacy, to begin play no earlier than 2012. The group announced a plan for a 30,000 seat arena, with 15,000 for tickets of a price of $50 or less. The arena would be situated in Downsview Park in the north of the city. Twenty-five percent of net profits would be given to charity.[29]

In 2011, a proposal surfaced to build a multi-purpose 19,500 seat arena in Markham, Ontario, north-east of Toronto proper, that could potentially be used for an NHL team. The CAD$ 300-million arena is to be part of an entertainment complex and could be ready as soon as 2014.[30] The company behind the proposal, GTA Sports and Entertainment is headed by W. Graeme Roustan, the company's chairman and CEO. Roustan is also the chairman of sports equipment maker Bauer. Roustan is a Montreal-raised private equity investor whose firm Kohlberg & Company, purchased Bauer from Nike.[31][32] The land proposed for the arena, near the Unionville commuter train station, is owned by Rudy Bratty, chairman and CEO of the Remington Group. The Remington Group is at the heart of Markham's proposed downtown-style development.[31] Markham has a population of 261,573, almost exactly equal to that of Buffalo, New York, the smallest city with an NHL franchise. As to the likelihood of getting a team, the NHL's Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly met with the ownership group and advised them "for purposes of their analysis, they should assume it will never happen."[31]

Quebec CityEdit

File:Centre Vidéotron - juin 2015.jpg

Quebec City has been home to two NHL hockey teams. The first, the Quebec Bulldogs, lasted from 1878 to 1920, after which they moved to Hamilton, Ontario. The second, the Quebec Nordiques, called Quebec City their home from 1972 to 1979 in the World Hockey Association, and from then on to 1995 as a National Hockey League team, at which point they moved to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche. Part of the challenge for both the Bulldogs and Nordiques was that Quebec City was by far the smallest market in the NHL. According to the Television Bureau of Canada, a prospective Quebec City team would now be in the league's second-smallest market, ahead of only Winnipeg.[33] However, Silver's story suggested that the Quebec City market was comparable to those of Winnipeg, Buffalo, and Washington D.C. in terms of avid hockey fans.[34]

In 2009, Kontinental Hockey League founder and president Alexander Medvedev stated his interest in purchasing an NHL team for Quebec City, saying that it was "very strange" there was no NHL team there.[35][36] Medvedev later shelved plans to buy a North American team after NHL representatives told him that the league would never allow a Russian to own one of its clubs.[37] In October 2009, Quebec City mayor Regis Labeaume spoke with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and former Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut regarding a team.[38] Bettman stated that Quebec City could be considered as a candidate for an NHL team provided it built a new arena and a team were for sale.[39]

In May 2011, Labeaume stated that Pierre Karl Peladeau, then-president and CEO of Quebecor Inc., was in talks with the NHL regarding a franchise in Quebec City.[40] He has since become a politician for the Parti Québécois, a sovereignist political party in the province. In September 2012, then-Quebec premier Jean Charest (whose government had invested in the new arena) claimed that the political aspect might hinder Quebec City's chances of getting the Nordiques back, saying that Bettman might be less likely to allow a team to move if sovereignists were in power.[41] According to Sports Illustrated, the league is wary of the Quebec sovereignty movement because of concerns that it could destabilize the Canadian dollar.[42] However, Mayor Labeaume insists that Péladeau's involvement in politics will hinder neither the management of the new arena nor the negotiations over the return of the Nordiques.[43]

Prior to the 2011–12 NHL season, an exhibition game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning was played at the Colisée Pepsi, the former home of the Nordiques.[44] The Canadiens were well received despite being from rival Montreal, and the designated away team of the game. Montreal was also scheduled to host the Carolina Hurricanes at the Colisée Pepsi in 2012; however, that game was canceled due to the lockout.[45] In September 2012, construction started on an 18,000-seat arena in Quebec City that would eventually become known as Videotron Centre, the cost of which (C$400 million) was split equally between the provincial and municipal governments.[46] The arena opened on September 12, 2015.[47]

In July 2013, ex-Nordiques coach Michel Bergeron accused Bettman of arranging a Glendale City Council vote concerning the relocation of the team then known as the Phoenix Coyotes, although the team would have more likely moved to Seattle. Bergeron called it "an obvious lack of respect and I find it disgusting," and claimed that Bettman is averse to moving teams out of the United States.[48] In March 2014, news broke that former Canadian prime minister and vice-chairman of Quebecor Brian Mulroney was also involved with negotiations.[43] Labeaume pointed out that Mulroney and Bettman had been negotiating directly for some time, and that "Mr. Bettman is a businessman. The Quebec sovereignty project will not bother him."[46] On June 24, 2015, Quebecor announced that it planned to apply for an NHL expansion franchise, with the aim of bringing the Nordiques back to Quebec City.[49] Nearly a month later, on July 20, 2015, Quebecor formally announced it had submitted an application to the NHL for an expansion franchise.[50][51] On July 21, 2015, the NHL confirmed it had received an application from Quebecor.[52] On August 5, 2015, it was announced that Quebec had moved on to Phase II of the expansion process.[53] The bid subsequently advanced to Phase III, which ended on September 4.[54]

Videotron Centre hosted a neutral-site preseason game between the Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins on September 28, 2015.[55] The following day in New York City, Quebecor and the Las Vegas ownership group presented their bids to the NHL's executive committee.[56][57] However, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated in a press conference after the NHL's Board of Governors meeting that though the league continues to explore the possibility of expansion, no deadline has been established for a decision. Commissioner Bettman also said that expansion requires a three-quarters affirmative vote from the Board of Governors, but the members of the executive committee would first have to make a recommendation to the group.[58]

In 2016, reports emerged that Quebec City may be out of the running due to the value of the Canadian dollar.[59] These reports were however, denied by the NHL.[59]

Further rumours arose in April of 2016 that the Carolina Hurricanes were possilbly relocating to Quebec City due to poor attendance at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The issue was quickly dismissed by owner Peter Karmanos


The Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, with full seating, can seat up to 15,000 fans, a capacity roughly equal to that of the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.

Wild Bill Hunter, the founder of the Edmonton Oilers, had an agreement to purchase the St. Louis Blues and move the team to Saskatoon as the Saskatoon Blues in the 1982–83 NHL season; however, the NHL (who did not want to leave the St. Louis market) vetoed the sale. Faced with the prospects of either having to allow the sale or contract the franchise, the league found an owner (Harry Ornest) willing to keep the team in Missouri and, in an eleventh-hour deal, preserved the Blues in St. Louis, where they remain to this day.

A proposal from Ice Edge Holdings to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes would move a portion of the team's home games to Saskatoon in an effort to maintain the team's viability in its main home in Phoenix, similar to the current Bills Toronto Series arrangement in the National Football League; the group, had it bought the team, was ready to go forward and had leased the Credit Union Centre for five home games in the 2009–10 season.[60] The group is believed to lack the funds to buy the team outright, but remained in contention as potential minority owner until May 2011, when it pulled out of negotiations.[61]

An exhibition game was played prior to the 2011–12 NHL season at the Credit Union Centre. The Chicago Blackhawks faced a split squad of the Edmonton Oilers losing 4-2 to Edmonton.[62]


A long shot under the best of odds for either an expansion team or a relocated team.  The area's smaller population base and distance from the nearest team would make the possibility  very unlikely under the best of circumstances.  Moosehead Breweries worked to bring a QMJHL team to the city after the AHL teams started to abandon Atlantic Canada and in the process became the first Q team to be based in the region.  The team has been a sucess on the ice and at the box office including winning the 2013 Memorial Cup and regularly being near the top of league in attendance.  Discussion had heated up for a while around 2010 to 2012 about building a replacement facility for the then named Halifax Metro Centre, which seats 10,595 for hockey and opened in 1978.  A naming rights deals was announced just prior to the start of the 2014-15 hockey season that would rename the facility the Scotiabank Centre.  The money from the naming rights deal was announced as being earmarked for improvements to the facility effectively ending any potential for a new arena and any possibility of an NHL expansion team for the foreseeable future.

Expansion sites within the United StatesEdit


Toyota Center in Houston

Several cities in the United States have been mentioned in the media as possible future sites for new or relocated NHL teams. In December 2007, organizations from Kansas City, Las Vegas, Houston, and Seattle presented their proposals for a franchise to the NHL's Executive Committee.[63] Other possible locations include San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Portland, Hartford, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Norfolk, New Orleans, Cincinnati and Baltimore.[64][65][66]

The five largest metropolitan regions without NHL franchises are (in descending order of population) Houston, Atlanta, Seattle-Tacoma, San Diego, and Cleveland. Cleveland, Houston and Atlanta have previously hosted major professional hockey teams. During the 1970s, Cleveland was home to the Cleveland Barons (the former Oakland Seals), which failed to draw fans or revenue, and was merged with the Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars) after two seasons. The Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association (WHA) existed from 1972 until 1978. The Atlanta Flames joined the NHL in 1972 and played in the city for eight years before being moved to Calgary in 1980 and becoming the Calgary Flames. The Atlanta Thrashers played in the NHL from 1999 to 2011, until its move to Winnipeg for the 2011–12 season.

Houston (Toyota Center), Atlanta (Philips Arena), Cleveland (Quicken Loans Arena), Tacoma (Tacoma Dome) and Portland (Rose Garden) have arenas capable of hosting NHL games. Other arenas specifically designed for NBA franchises such as the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, San Antonio's AT&T Center, Seattle Center Coliseum in Seattle,[67] and Salt Lake City's EnergySolutions Arena are also not suitable as permanent hosts for NHL hockey, although San Antonio also has the Alamodome.

Kansas CityEdit

glass-covered building

The Sprint Center in Kansas City

Kansas City, Missouri has hosted NHL hockey before. The NHL Kansas City Scouts played out of Kemper Arena from 1974 until 1976. The team averaged only 8,218 in attendance per game in the 17,000 seat arena, leading to the team's sale and relocation to Denver, Colorado to become the Colorado Rockies. Professional hockey continued at the arena in the form of the minor league Kansas City Blues, followed by the Kansas City Blades and the Kansas City Outlaws.

Kansas City opened an NHL-ready arena named the Sprint Center in 2007. The arena is owned by the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which owns the Los Angeles Kings, among other sports interests. In 2007, when the Pittsburgh Penguins faced financial troubles and no prospect of a new arena, the president of AEG offered to relocate the team to Missouri to play in the new Sprint Center rent-free and to become managing partners in the facility.[68] The Penguins, however, remained in Pittsburgh and ultimately got their new arena in 2010. In 2009, the New York Islanders played the Los Angeles Kings in a pre-season game at Sprint Center. The game was poorly attended, ending speculation that the Islanders would move to the arena.[69] The Sprint Center hosted another pre-season game of the Los Angeles Kings; this time versus the Penguins, in September 2011.[70] As AEG already owns the Los Angeles Kings, it would not be allowed to own another NHL team under NHL rules, although the rule has been circumvented in the past. The pre-season game between the Penguins and Kings was a sellout, drawing over 17,000 fans.[71]


keyarena hockey

The WHL hockey seating configuration of Seattle's KeyArena, showing curtained off seating reducing capacity, circa 2008

The 1917 Seattle Metropolitans were the first American winners of the Stanley Cup, but folded in 1924, while the Seattle Totems played in the borderline-major Western Hockey League from 1945 to 1975. During the mid-1970s, Seattle was even granted a conditional franchise that never came to fruition because of the Western League's instability (according to season ticket promotions the team would have kept the WHL name of Totems). A Seattle group made an unsuccessful bid on an expansion franchise in 1990.

The Seattle Center Coliseum (also known under an expired naming rights deal as KeyArena) is less than ideal for NHL in terms of capacity and sightlines, due to a 1994 renovation that made the arena basketball-specific for the arena's major tenant, the now-relocated Seattle SuperSonics;[67] the league has stated that the Coliseum would be "a difficult arena for hockey."[72]

The Tacoma Dome, a multi-purpose stadium that has hosted NHL exhibition games in the past, could function as a temporary facility, though issues with the facility include its distance from Seattle (30 miles), poor sightlines, awkward (and largely temporary) seating configuration, and a general lack of modern amenities. The city of Tacoma is studying a possible renovation of the Dome to meet major league standards. [73]

An unnamed Seattle group expressed its interest to the NHL in 2007.[63] In 2011, the NHL acknowledged that there was interest expressed by a group in Seattle for a team.[72] Multiple reports suggested Chicago Wolves owner and businessman Don Levin had expressed interest in building a new arena in nearby Bellevue that could host an NHL team.[74]

On February 16, 2012, a plan was announced to build a new arena in Seattle's SoDo district just south of Safeco Field. An investment group, headed by hedge-fund manager Christopher Hansen, is proposing to seek a return of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to Seattle and is seeking an NHL team for the arena. The arena would be built as a public-private partnership between the City of Seattle and Hansen's group. Hansen's group would invest $290 million and the public sector (city and county) $200 million. The project will not proceed without the confirmed purchase of a professional team as the arena's tenant.[75] Hansen's group has already purchased several acres of land at the site.[76] Commenting later that day, NHL Commissioner Bettman stressed that the NHL has no plans for expansion or relocation.[77] Levin has spoken to Hansen and expressed his interest in being involved as the owner of the NHL franchise that would be the tenant in the arena. Levin has also expressed his interest to Bettman.[78]

Las VegasEdit

Ice hockey interest in Las Vegas dates back to 1991, when the first ever outdoor game in the NHL's modern era was held in Las Vegas, with the Los Angeles Kings facing the New York Rangers outside Caesars Palace in the preseason. The minor league Las Vegas Thunder professional ice hockey team operated out of the Thomas & Mack Center from 1993 until 1999 when the team's lease of the facility expired. Every year since 1997 (except the lockout year of 2004), Las Vegas has hosted Frozen Fury, a pre-season competition between the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche at the 16,800-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena.[79] Although the NHL Awards ceremonies are held in Las Vegas, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said it "has nothing to do with" it being a potential relocation or expansion spot.[80][81] The media had speculated openly about a plan involving the Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer to bring the Phoenix Coyotes to Nevada.[82]

Rumors of a Las Vegas expansion team surfaced again in August 2014, focusing on a new indoor arena, now called the T-Mobile Arena, being constructed in the city as a joint venture between Anschutz Entertainment Group (owners of the Los Angeles Kings) and MGM Resorts International. The Province newspaper reported that a Las Vegas team was a "done deal". Deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied claims that the NHL had plans to expand.[83][84][85] On November 12, 2014, it was reported by the New York Post that the league had selected the Maloof family—former owners of the National Basketball Association's Sacramento Kings, and a minority owner of the Palms Casino Resort—along with Bill Foley, to lead the ownership group for a Las Vegas expansion team. However, neither Foley, the Maloofs, AEG, or MGM commented on the speculation. Daly was reportedly in Las Vegas for a meeting, and had checked on the progress on the new arena; Daly again denied that the NHL had any plans to expand, and that the league had "not discussed or identified potential ownership groups publicly."[86][87]

On December 8, 2014, following a meeting with the NHL's board of governors, commissioner Gary Bettman announced that he would not object to Foley holding a season ticket drive to gauge interest in a Las Vegas team, indicating the possibility that the league may actually consider a Las Vegas team. However, Bettman also warned the media to "[not] make more out of this than it is."[88][89] During an interview with Hockey Night in Canada 's Elliotte Friedman aired on December 13, 2014, Foley revealed that Wayne Gretzky was acting as an "unofficial" advisor to the proposed team, and that, although there would most likely be a vote to determine its name, his preferred name for the proposed team was the Las Vegas Black Knights—named in tribute to the Army Black Knights.[90][91]

On February 10, 2015 the season ticket drive began with interested parties placing ten percent deposits on season tickets for a Las Vegas NHL team to begin play in the 2016–17 season at the under construction T-Mobile Arena. Within 36 hours of the beginning of the drive, 5,000 season ticket deposits were collected by Hockey Vision Las Vegas, an organization representing the Bill Foley and the Maloof families as owners of the potential franchise, bringing the ticket drive 50% of the way to the self-determined goal of 10,000 season ticket deposits.[92] Hockey Vision Las Vegas confirmed the season ticket drive achieved their 10,000 season ticket deposit goal by April 2015 and has begun a push into corporate and casino ticket sales to supplement the 10,000 local individual/small business season ticket deposits with a new stated goal of 13,000 total season ticket sales for the team's inaugural season.[93]

Las Vegas appears to be the front-runner in the announced start of the expansion process, on June 24, 2015. Prospective owner Bill Foley has secured more than 13,200 season-ticket deposits for the multipurpose arena under construction near the Las Vegas Strip, and Bettman doesn't hide the league's intrigue about being the first major pro team in this growing desert town — while also realizing the risk of jumping into another non-traditional market and a gambling mecca. "We're going to take a deep dive and look at what there is in terms of the interest that's being expressed," Bettman said. "Obviously, Bill Foley got a great response to his season-ticket drive."[94] On July 21, 2015, the NHL confirmed it had received an application for an expansion team from Bill Foley for Las Vegas.[52] On August 5, 2015, the NHL announced it had invited Las Vegas to move into Phase II of the league expansion bid.[95] The bid subsequently advanced to Phase III, which ended on September 4.[54] On September 29, Bill Foley and Quebecor met the NHL's executive committee in New York City to present their respective bids.[56] However, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated in a press conference after the NHL's Board of Governors meeting that though the league continues to explore the possibility of expansion, no deadline has been established for a decision. Commissioner Bettman also said that expansion requires a three-quarters affirmative vote from the Board of Governors, but the members of the executive committee would first have to make a recommendation to the group.[58]

Though Reno and Las Vegas have had (and still have) minor league teams in various sports, an NHL team in Las Vegas would likely be the first ever professional sports team from one of the "Big Four" major leagues in Nevada; its only potential competition would be the National Football League's Oakland Raiders, who are also exploring the market as a potential relocation candidate.[96]


Professional ice hockey dates back to 1946 in Houston with the establishment of the Houston Skippers. This was followed by the Houston Apollos, the Houston Aeros of the WHA and the current Houston Aeros. The WHA Houston Aeros were an original member of the World Hockey Association. From 1972 to 1978, the Aeros twice won the AVCO World Trophy and featured the first father/son combination to play together in professional hockey, Gordie Howe and his two sons Mark and Marty. The Aeros, despite being a relatively successful franchise, were left out of the NHL-WHA merger and were forced to fold in 1978.

The current Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League (AHL) were founded in 1994. The team plays in the Toyota Center, which seats over 17,000 for hockey. As part of the lease agreement of the Toyota Center with the Houston Rockets, only an NHL team owned by Les Alexander, owner of the Rockets is allowed to play at the Center. The Rockets have twice explored the purchase of an NHL team for the building. According to comments made by Harris County officials, (Harris County owns the Center) there is no current interest in an NHL team.[97] The other arenas in Houston with the capability of hosting an NHL team are The Summit, although that building has been sold to a megachurch and has been decommissioned as a sports venue, and the currently vacant Astrodome.

Possible relocation candidatesEdit

As of 2015, the leading candidate for relocation is the Arizona Coyotes. The team has been unprofitable since its relocation to the Phoenix metropolitan area in 1996, and went bankrupt in the late 2000s. The league actively resisted selling the team to interests that would have relocated the team out of Arizona, and made numerous efforts to sell the team to owners that had intended to keep it in the state. The league convinced the eventual owners of the Winnipeg Jets to buy the Atlanta Thrashers instead of returning the Coyotes to their original home in Winnipeg.

None of the numerous prospective owners the league had hoped would buy the team, and keep it in Arizona, followed through on their sale until 2013, when IceArizona (a group led by George Gosbee) purchased the team.[98] Within a year of that sale, IceArizona spun off the team to hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway.[99] The Coyotes' lease on Gila River Arena was revoked in June 2015 due to concerns the lease was illegal under conflict of interest laws. The Coyotes intend to fight the revocation in court. The team has indicated that if it cannot stay at the Gila River Arena, it could move back to downtown Phoenix and the Talking Stick Resort Arena.[99] On July 24, 2015, the Coyotes announced that Glendale City Council had enacted an agreement allowing the Coyotes to stay in the Gila River Arena for the next two seasons.[100]

Expansion into EuropeEdit

Speculation as to NHL expansion to Europe took place as far back as the 1960s. David Molson, then-owner of the Montreal Canadiens, stated that he looked forward to a "world playoff" for the Stanley Cup.[101] In 1969, Clarence Campbell, president of the NHL, was quoted as saying "It is conceivable that the Stanley Cup will be played for in Moscow in the not too distant future. When it does, the World Tournament as we know it will just disappear ... The game will continue to expand."[101]

While no specific European cities have been named in recent years, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has stated in 2008 that expansion into Europe is a possibility "within 10 years time."[102] In August 2010, the IIHF president René Fasel stated that he would strongly oppose any expansion by the NHL into European markets.[103] Time zone complications would also be an obstacle.[103]

Possible contractionEdit

Conversely, contraction of the NHL has also been suggested, with several teams experiencing financial and/or ownership difficulties.[104]


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