Photo of NHL commissioner handing the Stanley Cup championship trophy to Jonathan Quick.

Image Credit: Mark Mauno (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The National Hockey League is expanding once again and I think this growth is excellent for the sport. It's likely that Quebec City, Quebec will get their Nordiques back with the recent completion of the brand new 18,000 seat Videotron Centre. That possibility especially came to fruition when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg to become the rebirth of the Jets. Winnipeg Jets tickets are some of the hardest tickets to get in the NHL. 

Las Vegas also expects to be the home of a new NHL franchise upon completion of it's $375 million arena in April 2016; name pending. Two new NHL teams will complete the Pacific and Central Divisions giving both the Eastern and Western Conferences 16 teams each. Seattle, Washington fits into the mix somehow and something tells me that Gary Bettman and the NHL front office secretly hopes that the city is able to secure a franchise. Bettman insists that the earliest play could begin in any of these three cities is the 2017-2018 NHL season. 



Photo of downtown Seattle, Washington.

Image Credit: Edmund Tse (CC BY 2.0)

Seattle as an NHL locale just makes a ton of sense due to the corporate presence the city has. Corporations are who will purchase club and luxury seating for games which is why so many new stadiums and arenas are popping up all over North America. A new arena in Seattle will also help the city lure an NBA team for the rebirth of the Seattle SuperSonics. There have been a number of recent efforts to build an arena in Seattle suburb Tukwila since the SODO location received so much opposition. SODO is the neighborhood where Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field are located.

Lead investors in the Seattle arena project have been adamant about not asking the public for assistance in building an arena which is extremely rare. The NHL also requires a $500 Million fee for expansion teams (the relocation fee is much cheaper). However, vulnerable NHL organizations such as the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes could possibly relocate to these three available cities over the next few years. I know Vancouver Canucks fans in British Columbia are excited about the possibility of a new local rivalry being born.  



Las Vegas

Photo of the Las Vegas strip at sunrise. 

Image Credit: Eric Kilby (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Las Vegas seems like such an unlikely city for an NHL team. Could the city be a dangerous locale with the gambling industry having such easy access to players? I would say no because athletes are so accessible in this day and age anyway. But I've been wrong before. Las Vegas most definitely has the corporate presence to support a professional sports team. If the concept does work, you can bet that the NFL, NBA and MLB will be taking notes. Las Vegas is almost untouched in the world of professional sports. MGM will own the naming rights to the 20,000 seat arena (17,500 seat capacity for hockey games). It's completion date is slotted for April of 2016. Local business Black Knight Sports and Entertainment launched a campaign titled "Vegas Wants Hockey" in which more than 13,000 season tickets were sold for a hockey team that doesn't even exist. Upper level tickets are going for between $20 and $60 per ticket for the season.  

My main concern if I'm an investor is the fan base's identity. Las Vegas is a tourist city full of transplants from cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Chicago. When teams like the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings visit Las Vegas, you can bet that it will be a home games for those teams. Also, as I've always said, it's hard to get excited about hockey when it's 100 degrees outside. Let's also not forget about the endless stream of competing entertainment that the city will offer besides just professional hockey. 





Quebec City

Photo of downtown Quebec City in Canada.

Image Credit: Patty Ho (CC BY 2.0)

Quebec City seems to be the least ideal spot for an NHL expansion or relocation among these three cities for a number of reasons. 

  • The Canadian dollar continues to weaken.
  • The NHL failed in Quebec City once before. The Nordiques relocated to Denver, Colorado in 1995 when they became the Colorado Avalanche.
  • Quebec City has a good corporate presence but not as strong as Las Vegas, Nevada or Seattle, Washington. 


Without looking at financials or any other factors, the city of Hamilton, Ontario would seem like the best fit for an 8th NHL team in Canada. Earlier this year, the Montreal Canadiens faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in an exhibition game at the Videotron Centre, Quebec City's brand new 18,000 seat arena. The game was a sellout but could this game be deemed as simply "temporary excitement"? After the game, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs seemed to be skeptical of the city due to it's small population. However, in 1995, attendance wasn't the issue. It was the lack of club and luxury seating and their inability to generate revenue from it. The new Videtron Centre has the private seating that corporations will purchase. However, it is important to note that media giant Quebecor seems to be heavily vested in making sure the NHL doesn't fail in Quebec City. A Quebecor television deal for the Nordiques would create strong stability for the franchise.

The Montreal Canadiens were formerly worried about sharing the Quebec province with another NHL team many years ago. The Molson family, however, seem to be more open to the idea this time around. The ultimate tragedy would be not securing a team and the beautiful Videotron Centre standing alone for other events that wouldn't reach capacity.  


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