In June National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league would begin taking applications for expansion teams. The NHL is likely to add two teams as soon as the 2017–18 season, and, with a 20,000-seat arena under construction on the Strip, Las Vegas is a lock. But Seattle is likely a frontrunner for the other franchise. With the expansion process ramping up late this summer, we break down the competition.
Pros: Options. Seattle has three arena groups vying for an NHL and/or NBA team: Chris Hansen in SoDo, Connecticut businessman Ray Bartoszek in Tukwila, and a third as yet unnamed group in Bellevue. Realistically the only way the Sonics come back is if Seattle gets the NHL first, so local support should be high.
Cons: Hansen would need to convince the city council to amend the current NBA-first arena deal. The Tukwila group still needs to complete an environmental impact study and secure funding. And the Bellevue group only owns part of the land at its proposed arena site.
Pros: Quebec City will open the 18,000-seat state-of-the-art Vidéotron Centre this September and was home to the NHL’s Nordiques from 1979 to 1995
Cons: The city is only slightly larger than Winnipeg, the smallest Canadian market with a team; and the league has hinted at wanting to add western teams to balance out the current conference alignment.
Pros: Even with the Maple Leafs, demand is high. (And there are two teams in the LA area.) The team would print money.
Cons: When Bettman expands he likes to place franchises in new markets—even if they don’t necessarily make the most sense, geographically speaking (Atlanta, Phoenix, Florida, etc.).
Pros: The city is big enough to support more than just the Trailblazers and Timbers. The Moda Center already hosts the junior hockey Winterhawks, and Blazers owner Paul Allen has the money to make a splash.
Cons: Despite the sport’s popularity in Portland, Bettman rarely mentions the Rose City when discussing expansion.
Pros: The city has had an NHL-ready arena (the 19,000-seat Sprint Center) since 2007—and needs a tenant. And along with Seattle, KC is the only city with three major sports teams but not an NHL or NBA franchise.
Cons: Even Lamar Hunt Jr., the owner of KC’s minor league hockey team, says the city wouldn’t support the NHL.