The question of an NHL return to Quebec City has probably been raised by some since the very day the Nordiques relocated to Colorado to become the Avalanche. It may have been amplified by news of teams like the New York Islanders being in trouble financially or in terms of having an arena in future.
But now the league may be looking to expand to 32 teams–not via relocation, but by adding two new expansion squads. Quebec City could very well get another shot at being an NHL city.
Even though the NHL does have something quite large on its plate right now to deal with, once the lockout ends, the league may turn to the question of expansion once again.
Progress has been at the negotiation table via the NHL’s new offer, which includes an even 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, a full 82-game season that would ideally begin on Nov. 2 and involve rescheduling the lost games from this month, returning the players’ lost salary from this month over time and other provisions.
The two sides do still need time to meet and negotiate the finer points of this offer, but there is still time to potentially do so and this offer represents a large shift from the league’s previous standpoint of not offering anything and refusing to discuss the big issues with the NHLPA.
So, with guarded optimism on the labor front comes the potential of getting another thing done that the league wanted last season: realignment. Remember that realignment plan? It had some conferences with eight teams and some with seven and went over about as well as a broccoli birthday cake with the NHLPA.
However, if the league does expand to welcome two new teams, that would equal 32 and all four conferences could have eight teams evenly. That could lead to a new realignment plan down the road.
Along with Quebec City, another potential home for a new team might strike some as strange: Toronto. Considering Toronto already has an NHL and an AHL team, it could be a squeeze and the Maple Leafs would have to okay the matter. Other potential destinations are Seattle–where the climate is looking right for a new arena that could house NBA and NHL–as well as Hartford, which formerly was the home of the Hartford Whalers until that team’s relocation to Raleigh, N.C.
Again, the bigger issue of the work stoppage needs to be solved first before the NHL starts to look at expansion. But once it is–it will be, sooner or later–they could consider making two new cities home to home ice.