NHL's new lucky number: 32
The NHL is poised to grow from 30 franchises to 32, and it could happen in as
early as two years.
TORONTO, ON -- The New York Islanders are moving to Brooklyn. The New
Jersey Devils are still in the process of being sold. The Phoenix
Coyotes are, for the foreseeable future, stable.
For the most part, the NHL's 30 current franchises are becoming
Sure, the Florida Panthers are actively seeking new partners to join
their current ownership group, and some other clubs keep showing
losses, but let's not get too picky here.
The future of the NHL is brighter than its ever been, believe it or
not. And with other cities knocking on the door, hoping to join the
club, that just means more money to go around: expansion fees for the
NHL, 60+ new contracts for the Players, and more HRR to go around.
On June 16, I wrote a piece about
the League's plans to expand to 32
teams. I explained how the word "expansion" will be used and heard
more and more in the near future.
In fact, we at TFP have been talking about this for well over a year.
Well, chatter has picked up, and the two cities next in line are
Quebec City and Seattle. Or Seattle and Quebec City. Ah, it doesn't
matter, they're both getting one.
Yes, that's a pretty bold statement, and it's been one I've been
talking about for a while. But it's inevitable.
A new arena is being built in Quebec City. Plans for a new arena are
ready to be executed in Seattle (though they've wanted to add an NBA
team, as well). The NHL has spoken with city officials in both
markets, and they're well aware of the ownership groups interested in
bringing a franchise (back) to each city.
Things got even more interesting late last night when Mitch Levy,
morning show host for Sports Radio 950 in Seattle, tweeted that NHL
Commissioner Gary Bettman is pushing for another club in the
"I'm hearing that the NHL Commish is encouraging the board of
governors to make an expansion team available to Seattle," he wrote.
"If approved, the new expansion Seattle NHL club would cost
approximately $275M. It would begin playing here in the 2014-2015
Granted, the price tag on an expansion franchise seems a little low,
but it's not that far fetched. Beginning operations in 2014-15,
however, does cut things really short.
The only option for an NHL team in Seattle to play out of, right now,
is KeyArena. A new building won't be operational for two-to-three
years, once they've started constructing it. According to various
Seattle-based folks I've chatted with, the sightlines in KeyArena are
garbage for hockey, and putting 13,000 happy customers in the stands
on a nightly basis would be a stretch.
Realistically, if an agreement is reached between the NHL and a
Seattle ownership group (there are believed to be two serious bidders
in the mix), spending one season in KeyArena might be worth it. Two
might be difficult.
But as Levy indicated, such a transaction would only be viable if a
new building is constructed.
For Quebec City, the process appears to be much simpler.
Quebecor Arena is scheduled to open in 2015 after construction began
on Sept. 10, 2012. An ownership group is already in place and they're
essentially waiting for the green light from the NHL. Presumably, if
everything works out with Seattle, and the NHL expands to 32 teams, as
expected, the earliest we'd see regular-season NHL action in Quebec
City would be at the start of the 2015-16 campaign. Technically, it
could happen in 2014-15, if the League is willing to let them play out
of the Colisée Pepsi for a year.
Overall, it sounds like the steps towards expansion have moved a
little quicker than I originally expected. There is still a load of
work that needs to be completed, especially in Seattle's case, but all
signs continue to point to 32 teams in the coming years.