Favorites for the Next NHL Expansion Teams

3 Dec 2023

What are the favorite cities for the next NHL expansion teams? The National Hockey League had as little as six teams in 1942. The Seattle Kraken joined as the 32nd team in 2021.
The NHL is now made up of 25 teams from America and 7 from Canada. An expansion team can generate new jobs, increased tourism and greater tax revenues for cities. Let's take a look at the possibilities for the next NHL expansion teams.

6. Portland

Portland is known for its passionate sports culture and successful major league sports teams. The Trail Blazers have been historically strong in the NBA and the Timbers are one of the biggest Major League Soccer teams.

The city also has a strong history of supporting minor league hockey. The Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League have produced NHL Hall of Famers Marian Hossa, Mark Messier and Cam Neely.

A big reason Portland can host one of the next NHL expansion teams is the state-of-the-art Moda Center. Home to the Trail Blazers, Moda Center has hosted NHL preseason games in the past and would be a great location to host a Pacific Northwest rivalry against the Seattle Kraken. 

5. Milwaukee

Milwaukee is a city rich of hockey traditions and is home to the successful minor league team and Nashville Predators affiliate the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.
Major League Baseball's Milwaukee Brewers have created one of the biggest MLB rivalries, and a Milwaukee NHL expansion team in a region with an already strong ice hockey presence would create massive rivalries with the nearby Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

Fiserv Forum opened in 2018 and is home to the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. The modern state-of-the-art arena is located conveniently in downtown Milwaukee, and has hosted the NCAA Frozen Four, reason that Milwaukee can become one of the next NHL expansion teams.

4. Kansas City

Kansas City was home to NHL team the Scouts between 1974-1976 but suffered from low crowds, poor on ice performances and growing debt. The Scouts then relocated to Denver for six years before moving on to become the New Jersey Devils.

Things have changed since then and there's renewed interest for a Kansas City NHL expansion team. T-Mobile Center has hosted St. Louis Blues preseason games in the past, and in 2007 the city offered to host the Pittsburgh Penguins with free rent if they relocated. 
A roadblock for a team is Kansas City's proximity to existing NHL markets in St. Louis and Nashville. They'll also need corporate sponsorship and a rich owner to help cover the mammoth cost of expansion fees.

3. Quebec City

The Quebec Bulldogs were a founding member of the National Hockey League in 1917 before moving to Hamilton in 1920. In 1979 the Quebec City Nordiques became the second NHL team to play in the city. A relocation to Denver would take place in 1995 and the Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche. 

A Francophone market of less than 1 million people, Quebec City would only be bigger than the Winnipeg market if it gained an NHL expansion team. The Nordiques struggled in the city because of a lack of market size which was an issue with skyrocketing player salaries.

Fans in the city are passionate ice hockey fans however, and an NHL team in Quebec City would be comparable to the Buffalo Sabres or Washington Capitals markets. The state-of-the-art Videotron Centre, an 18,000-seater stadium built in 2015, could also host an NHL game tomorrow if it had to, making Quebec City a viable expansion team candidate. 

2. Hamilton

Hamilton is one of the favourites for the next lot of NHL expansion teams but despite multiple bids, it keeps on failing. The favorite for NHL expansion in 1990, the Hamilton bid attempted to negotiate the $50 million expansion fee and both Ottawa and Tampa where chosen instead. It was a bad move considering the Seattle Kraken paid a $650 million expansion fee in 2021. 

In 2006 a deal for the Pittsburgh Penguins to relocate to Hamilton was agreed in principle. That fell through as the Penguins agreed with the city of Pittsburgh for a new arena instead. It was also rumored in 2007 that the Nashville Predators were relocating to Hamilton but a move never eventuated. 

The NHL currently has seven Canadian teams and Hamilton is the second largest population center of all Canadian cities without an NHL team. The city also sits just an hour south of Toronto, the National Hockey League's most profitable market. 
FirstOntario Centre is home to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League and is a viable NHL arena with a seating capacity of over 17,000.

1. Houston

Houston has a history of ice hockey with the Houston Skippers beginning minor league ice hockey in the city in 1946, albeit for one season only. The Houston Aeros of the AHL and IHL were founded in 1994 and relocated to Iowa in 2013.

What makes Houston the best location for the next NHL expansion team is that it's the largest market in either America or Canada without a National Hockey League team. It makes Houston an extremely attractive option to host a team and doing so would complete a “full set” of major league teams in the city.

In 1998 Houston was just hours away from the Edmonton Oilers relocating to the city, only for a local ownership group in Edmonton matching Houston’s offer and the team staying in Canada instead.

Toyota Center is a 17,800 seat modern arena and home to the Houston Rockets. It’s hosted NHL preseason games previously and is located in downtown Houston. Another team in Texas would also create an intense rivalry with the Dallas Stars, and corporate sponsorship would not be an issue in a city with an exceptionally strong economy. 

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