The Top 10 U.S. Cities the NHL should Expand or Relocate into
Edmonton's Rexall Place
Apart from lockouts, who-is-the-best-player-in-the-NHL debates and the Canada versus United States mentality that seems to emanate from every corner of the hockey landscape, two of the more hotly contested issues in recent years have been relocation and expansion. Are these things good for the league? How much or how little of this should be done? When? Where?
This is where we cue the neverending Phoenix Coyotes mess, the insufferable nationalism of the pocket of Canadians who insist that all teams south of New York City play in unsuitable markets and should immediately be moved to the middle-of-nowhere Canada, tales of how Gary Bettman is too proud to admit failure in any more markets and refuses to relocate any of them despite the good it would do the league financially, and how, naturally, the short list of acceptable destinations for expansion teams must start and end with Quebec City and Markham (in that order).
Putting aside all of this aside though, we’re going to focus on one subject with this slideshow: The Top 10 American cities where the NHL could conceivably put a team, be it through relocation or expansion. This slideshow will not be using an overly scientific process where I bore you to tears with data on population size, economic factors and all the sorts of minutiae which actually come into play when relocation or expansion are considered. This is simply going to be a look at markets which would be interesting for one reason or another.
Some will be obvious because of their location, hockey history, size, financial wherewithal, stadium possibilities, etc., while others will be more along the lines of, “Hey, this city’s population is way bigger than Winnipeg’s and they aren’t located in the Deep South. Would this work?” If nothing else, this should get people thinking about where they might like to see other NHL teams show up one day in a perfect world.
In no particular order, here is the list.
Insane amounts of corporate sponsorship to be had. A possible arena in the making. A natural geographic rivalry with Vancouver. A history with hockey (Seattle Metropolitans, anyone?) and winning the Stanley Cup. Three successful WHL franchises--Seattle Thunderbirds, Everett Silvertips, Portland Winterhawks--in the area or within three hours of the area. These and many other reasons make Seattle the best U.S. market available that doesn't already have an NHL team.
This one is trickier. If mega-billionaire Paul Allen hadn't been used and abused by the NHL multiple times in the past when teams threatened to relocate there (first Phoenix way back in the day, then Pittsburgh before Super Mario saved the day), he would be of interest to the NHL for sure. The Rose Garden is already NHL-ready and could easily split its time between supporting the Portland TrailBlazers, the aforementioned Winterhawks, and whatever NHL team would come to town. The only problem is Allen has said he no longer has an interest in an NHL team. This is too bad, as Portland would be a great spot for a niche sport like the NHL to catch on, and if a team were to come to Seattle as well, the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver rivalry would be IN. SANE.
Northern market that loves their hockey. If this city can support the Bucks and Brewers, imagine how well an NHL team would do.
Ah yes, the lovely Sprint Center. The empty Sprint Center. The never-going-to-attract-an-NHL-team-because-we-can't-find-a-prospective-owner Sprint Center. The NHL didn't work here the first time around, but they aren't above giving certain cities second chances. If they could just find a prospective owner...
A big city in the northern part of the United States. Might not be the sexiest pick and it certainly wouldn't be at the top of the NHL's list but it might be worth a shot if the city decides it ever wants to have another "professional" team to root for besides the Reds.
I've been okay with Carolina's time in the NHL (except for when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals...oy...), but Hartford deserved better than to have the Whalers taken away from them by an owner who didn't have the team's best interests in mind. Give 'em the Whalers again. If Winnipeg can get the Jets back...
Salt Lake City
Cold-weather climates are great for winter sports like hockey. Annnnd Salt Lake City has the Utah Jazz instead. The winter Olympics worked very well here a decade ago, so why not give the NHL a try? Being relatively close to Denver wouldn't hurt either and could end up spurring a new rivalry.
This city is already stretched thin supporting the Colts and the Pacers, but they shouldn't be considered beyond the reach of hockey. With the USHL's highly successful Indianapolis Ice relocating to Banker's Life Fieldhouse to share space with the Pacers and WNBA's Fever for the next two seasons, and with the team holding the Tier One North American junior hockey attendance record for a game (just under 15,000), there is definitely support to be found here.
The Indians, Browns and Cavaliers are all they have to root for. Giving them an NHL team couldn't be any worse than any of these other situations.
Big market. Big money. Big support with teams like the AHL's Houston Aeros. Wouldn't be a slam dunk, but if it "works" in Dallas, then Houston certainly deserves a shot. Les Alexander might not be the prospective owner he once was thanks to America's economic troubles, but maybe somebody else down there would step up...?