Out of Bounds: NHL expansion

The talk of expansion in the National Hockey League increased in intensity over the months, with four possible locations receiving expansion teams.

A report came out in late August stating that Las Vegas, Quebec City, Seattle and Toronto would all receive expansion franchises in the near future.

While it seems inevitable the NHL will expand past 30 teams, one has to inquire about the longevity of the potential new franchises and overall reason why the NHL is targeting those cities.

Let’s start with the most logical choice: Quebec City.

The province of Quebec’s capital city has been clamoring for the return of their Nordiques since the relocation of the previous Nordiques to Denver in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche.

If the NHL wants to start the expansion process with a solid first step, then another team in “La Belle Provence” would certainly fit the bill.

Along with Toronto, Quebec City has the hockey credentials to back it up.

The old Colisée Pepsi arena housed the World Hockey Association and NHL Nordiques for 23 seasons prior to the relocation.

Moreover, census projections claim that 791,934 people live in the Quebec City area, making it the most logical choice for another team.

Staying in Canada, there are talks that Toronto could house another NHL team, believe it or not.

The city that houses the NHL’s most-valuable franchise – the Maple Leafs – could sustain another franchise.

The proposed 19,500-seat arena in Markham, Ontario, a city located in the Greater Toronto Area, would be the new home for the new Toronto franchise.

However, there has been some resistance, understandably, by the Maple Leafs to the proposed new team.

This may be all for naught, because in a conversation with George Stroumboulopoulos, the new host of “Hockey Night in Canada,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that all he would need was approval of 23 of the league’s 30 teams.

“Nobody has veto power,” Bettman said.

Adding two new teams in the Eastern Conference would further unbalance league symmetry. The NHL features 16 teams in the East and 14 teams in the Western Conference.

That is why the league may favor going West with teams in Las Vegas and Seattle.

Especially, Sin City.

Las Vegas already hosts the end-of-the-year NHL awards, and that is a huge moneymaker for the league.

The city already approved a new arena, which is scheduled to be opened in spring 2016.

That is about the only thing Las Vegas has going for it.

According to a 2013 analysis of estimated NHL fan base by Nate Silver, Las Vegas would boast a mediocre 90,000 NHL fans, which far below any of the 30 teams.

The new Vegas team would have to double their fan base to make it the bottom of the list, which is around 150,000 fans.

Simply, Las Vegas would be a failed experiment from the word go. Besides, what would you call a team in Sin City?

Then we go to Seattle, one of the more popular choices and a bit more logical.

An agreement is in place for Seattle to construct a new arena, but their primary tenant may not necessarily be an NHL franchise.

Seattle’s desire to bring back the Supersonics has been unwavering, and surely a return to the National Basketball Association would be first on the list.

Seattle would be a geographical fit and a natural rival for the Vancouver Canucks.

And, the city is already home to the Seattle Thunderbirds, a major junior team in the Western Hockey League.

Of the four teams on the “list,” Quebec City and Seattle would be the obvious choices for receiving NHL franchises.

It may seem like a slam dunk, but if the NHL is more concerned about the almighty dollar, Vegas and Toronto would be their favorites.

But certainly not the logical choices.

Categories: Out of Bounds, Sports

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