yourselves, it's coming
TFP Editor-in-Chief David Pagnotta discusses the inevitable: NHL expansion
TORONTO, ON -- I've been saying it for years. The NHL's short-term
plan -- within the current Collective Bargaining Agreement -- is to
grow the League from 30 teams to 32.
Last summer, I wrote about
expansion and how it's been on the
NHL's agenda. I followed that piece up
a month later, explaining how Seattle
and Quebec City were atop the League's list of prospective future NHL
A year has gone by, and strides have been made. Not only in Seattle
and Quebec, but Las Vegas is now a serious contender -- something I
indicated earlier this month on The Players' Lounge, our show on NHL
Network Radio on SiriusXM. These three markets are pushing for an NHL
franchise, with Kansas City in the far, far background. (Sorry,
Toronto, a second team isn't in the cards any time soon).
MGM and AEG cracked ground on a new $375 million, 20,000 seat arena on
May 1 with the intention of attracting an NHL and NBA franchise to Sin
City. According to a recent report in the Las Vegas
Review-Journal, construction is
moving along very well.
I can't imagine the NBA having a team in Vegas any time soon, but the
NHL has been thinking long and hard about being the first major sports
league to call Las Vegas home. (Note: A Vegas-based group is currently
trying to bring a Major League Soccer team to the city, with a new
There have been several groups interested in bringing the NHL to Las
Vegas, but their interest, at the time, was premature. The NHL wasn't
Long-time hockey fan and TV/film producer Jerry Bruckheimer has been
part of one group eyeing an NHL franchise for this market, but it's
unclear if discussions have continued.
Tony Gallagher of the
Vancouver Province wrote today,
citing sources, that NHL expansion to Las Vegas is "a done deal."
While that wouldn't surprise me, there are plenty of variables that
come into play with respect to this market.
Most pressing is the fact the NHL wants proof, or as close to proof as
can be, that the local market will support a franchise. That means
roughly 12,000 season ticket holders (combo of full season, half, game
packs, etc.) will ultimately be needed. That's outside of the casinos,
scooping up tickets and suites -- the new arena will be heavy on
suites. There needs to be an appropriate level of in-market fans.
The last thing the NHL wants is to have a home team with no fan base
(yeah, yeah, insert joke here).
In Seattle, Vancouver native and billionaire Victor Coleman is leading
the charge to bring the NHL back to the state of Washington. He has an
agreement in place with Chris Hansen, who has been spearheading the
movement to getting a new state-of-the-art facility to accommodate
both an NHL and NBA franchise.
There are challenges here, too.
Originally, the local government first wanted an NBA franchise, again,
then focus on bringing the NHL back. While plans have derailed in the
NBA department, they've taken a significant step forward on the hockey
side of things.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has travelled to Seattle several times
over the past year. The wheels are in motion. But the NHL wants a new
arena, and the parameters of Hansen's deal with the city and state
change significantly if it's an NHL-first deal.
Bettman has already rejected the idea of an NHL team playing out of
KeyArena. Would he change his mind if a team had to play there for one
season before moving into a new facility? Probably. But that's not a
guarantee. Coleman, Hansen and the bigwigs in Seattle need to figure
out an arena deal before things progress to the next level.
With Seattle and Las Vegas now believed to be 1-2 (or vice versa,
whatever) on the NHL's radar for expansion -- again, expansion will
happen in the near future -- where does that leave Quebec City?
Good question, Aguado.
If Vegas is in fact a "done deal," that leaves one club left on the
expansion front... and 15 teams in the Western Conference versus the
16 clubs in the East. The easy way to even things out is to give
Seattle a team. Well, if they can't figure out their plans for a new
arena, with the NHL being the initial tenant, that leaves Quebec wide
open. Their new arena is set to open in late-September 2015 and they
have an ownership group already in place. But that might not be in the
best interest of the NHL.
As much as the NHL recognizes the hockey hotbed that is Quebec City,
the League is going to get their money, regardless. Whether they
collect around $800 million in expansion fees, combined, from Seattle
and Vegas, or Vegas and Quebec, those dollars are going straight to
the owners. If a team is forced to relocate, which market would pay a
higher premium for that club? Vegas? Not really. Seattle? Nope. Kansas
City? Stop it. Portland? Enough already.
Remember, this is a business. Bettman's job is to make as much money
for his 30 (soon to be 32) bosses as he can. It would appear that
maximizing his revenues would result in taking the expansion fees from
Vegas and Seattle, and the relocation dollars from Quebec (and after
TVA Sports grabbed the French television broadcast rights, Quebecor
will have something to say if the League decides to go in another
So as much as it may suck for the fans in Quebec City, they may
(repeat: MAY) have to wait a little bit longer. But if shit hits the
fan in either Vegas or Seattle, they're golden. Unless the League
gets really wild and gives all three markets a team?!
And in case you're wondering, in the NHL offices, expansion talk
supersedes that of relocation. If you're banking on the Arizona
Coyotes packing up shop (their owners have been doing their best to
squash the whispers that they may be in trouble, and they're trying to
get an outdoor game), or the Florida Panthers (hosts of the 2015 NHL
Draft) calling it quits in the near future, you're probably better off
keeping your money and blowing it away at the slot machines at
McCarran International Airport.
Expansion is on the horizon. It's time to face the music.
The NHL hasn't received this much interest from other markets in
decades. They're going to cash in, and deservingly so. It's good for
the players, too. You're looking at 60 new full-time jobs.
I'm not sure if we'll hear any announcements at the start the 2014-15
season, but it's coming. Maybe the NHL will save it for All-Star
Weekend in Columbus, the last expansion franchise to enter the league
with Minnesota (and one of my favorite cities to visit)?
Either way, it's time to start brainstorming team names.