Top 10 Cities for Next NHL Franchise

With the 2013 NHL season being over with the Chicago Black Hawks winning the Stanley Cup the usual off season antics are underway. The NHL Draft is happening this weekend in New Jersey in which the best junior players who are at least 18-years-old around the world will be selected by NHL clubs. Around the draft there are always trades that occur.  Each team has a couple of one-time only buy outs that it can use to unburden themselves of crazy contracts.  Free agents will either be resigned by their clubs or sign with the highest bidders. In other works, despite the warm weather the winter sport continues at a hectic pace.

This year there is even another frying pan to add to the fire with the ongoing situation in Phoenix. The lack of ownership (the NHL owned the team last season) and the whole mess of the situation means that there has been talk of the Phoenix Coyotes being relocated to another city.

Whenever there has been discussion of franchise being relocated there has been an equal amount of discussion and guesses hazarded in regards to where the team could be moving.  With the ongoing situation in Phoenix the guessing game has been going on for years.  I’ve decided to make a list of ten of the most likely landing places and will allow you to decide on the validity/possibility of each.

london england10) London, England: Now, before you declare me completely insane read my reasons. The NHL has often thought about expansion around the world. Europe would be the most logical area to start with. An NHL game has already been played there and attendance was good. A flight from Montreal to London is only around 7 hours which is only 1.5 hours more than Montreal-Los Angeles. Huge hockey markets like Russia and Sweden already have professional leagues, so would be more difficult to break into and are further away. It is the perfect huge city in which to cultivate a whole new hockey audience in.

9) Kansas City, Missouri: Kansas City has been an NHL city before. For a mere two seasons in the mid 1970s the Kansas City Chiefs were there before they were relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Rockies. Based on how loyal the fans are there in regards to the woeful Kansas City Royals I think they would support an NHL team. The city already has an NHL-calibre arena called the Spirit Center. It is the largest Midwestern city without an NHL team. The worry is the size of the crowds. There has been some NHL preseason games player there and the crowds were not huge.

8) Halifax, Nova Scotia: I know that other Canadian cities have been mentioned like Hamilton and Saskatoon, but Hamilton has opposition and Saskatoon has a small population. Halifax is the perfect place to place the NHL’s first Atlantic province team. It has an arena which is not exactly up to NHL standards but can surely fill in until one is built.

7) Las Vegas, Nevada: Not as far-fetched as you might think. A city with world-class entertainment so why not NHL hockey? Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer has practically begged the NHL for his own franchise located in Las Vegas. A professional sports team in the betting capital of the United States seems logical. Plenty of Canadians travel to this city so I’m sure they would follow their teams to watch them play in Vegas. Also, being the first professional sports team in this city is an interesting idea. Its proximity to Phoenix also makes it an easier move. Finally, the traditional pre-season game between the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche does well there. It has taken a hit recently with lots of foreclosures and economic problems but I’m sure the city will bounce back.

6) Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Fans of the NFL, NBA and MLB franchises are known to be loyal supporters of their teams. It is a cold weather climate and plenty of rabid hockey fans. The AHL and University of Wisconsic (Milwaukee Badgers) have good size followings. This is a hockey mad town but there are a few things that hold it back. The arena is horrible. The Bradley Center is not an NHL standard arena. Then there is the issue of them turning down an NHL expansion team in the 1990s. If a new arena is built then they would move up this list.

5) Toronto, Ontario: I know that the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs have the rights to an 80 kilometre radius around the city but I think they can be bargained with. The city of Toronto certainly has the population to support two professional hockey teams. The rivalry would be fantastic for the league. You know that the team would do well as Toronto has done fantastic at the box office while never achieving any playoff success.

4) Portland, Oregon: Portland would be another good addition to the Western division. They only have two professional teams (NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and MLS’s Portland Timbers) to compete with for sports fans’ dollars. They definitely have the population and economic environment to support another professional team. When the Atlanta Thrashers were being relocated Portland was one of the top cities considered until they settled on Winnipeg.  Another encouraging sign is that they obviously have a large hockey fanbase already as they set the attendance record for a single game in the WHL (Portland Winterhawks) with over 19,000 at a major junior game.

3) Hamilton, Ontario: A third team in the province of Ontario is not crazy talk. They have the hockey fan population to support it. I think the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs would agree to a team over seventy kilometers away because they are nervous about talk of another NHL team in Toronto. The same is true for the owners of the just over border Buffalo Sabres.  Both organizations fear a team in Hamilton will steal fans from them. There is already an NHL-ready arena there in Copps Coliseum. Southern Ontario is ripe with passionate hockey fans and this would give another area a team of their own to root for.

2) Quebec City, Quebec: I know they had a team and it left for the greener (or more elevated) pastures of Colorado but I think their second go around would be a huge success based on what has happened in Winnipeg. Hockey is a religion in Quebec and fans there deserve their own team to worship. This is despite the fact that the city has a population under 1 million people. The rebirth of the Montreal-Quebec rivalry should make every hockey fan smile. I know the lack of a large modern arena holds them back though once the team has been moved they can play in the Colisée until a new arena is built (2015). Alignment-wise it makes sense for the NHL. Should no longer be a question of if a team is moving there but when.

1) Seattle, Washington: This is a great sports town and has been asking for an NHL team for several years now. Importantly it is a large television market. They do need a new arena but that can be built as there is an ownership group there who have said they will build one. A nice geographical rivalry between a team in Seattle and Vancouver Canucks would be set up.

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