The NHL has expanded twice in the past few years, adding the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 and the Seattle Kraken in 2021. It has only been a few years for Vegas and only two years for Seattle, but the early returns have been great on both ends.
With such great success, it is only natural for other markets without NHL teams to express interest, and Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed at the March General Manager’s meeting that that was indeed the case, as a few markets and potential owners had reached out with interest in getting an NHL team.
Bettman also confirmed that the NHL was not in an expansion mode, so it seems to be a moot point. But often where there is smoke there's fire, and it’s only natural to wonder about potential locations if the NHL does indeed decide to expand or if a current franchise opts to relocate.
The NHL’s expansion history is littered with successes, with the occasional failure mixed in, but to go from a six-team league in 1967 to the current 32-team league, they make a lot of correct decisions and the league is in a relatively healthy place.
Expansion has come in stages in the NHL. There was the doubling of the league in 1967 from six to 12 teams, the 1979 WHA absorption when they added four teams, the two year stretch from 1992-93 where four teams were added and the 1998-2000 stretch where they also added four teams. With the NHL now tied with the NFL for the league with the most teams, it does seem unlikely that they would lead the charge and become the first league to go beyond that number, but crazier things have happened.
If they do decide to expand, or if a current team back up the moving trucks, there are several areas interested in bringing in a team, with Houston, Atlanta and Quebec City all confirmed as having interest. Kansas City also has interest in an NHL team, and in terms of market size and arena situations they fit the bill, with the T-Mobile Center sitting ready as an NHL caliber rink.
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Odds Of Next NHL Franchise (Expansion or Relocation)
Kansas City Among Those In The Hunt
Kansas City checks in with an 11.1% chance of being the next NHL location, giving them hypothetical odds of +750 should the NHL decide to expand. Kansas City has already had one shot at an NHL team, with the Scouts joining the NHL along with the Washington Capitals in 1974.
In a league that has seen many successful expansions, Kansas City has to go down as one of its biggest failures.
The team only lasted for two years, seeing an average of less than 10,000 fans per game and only won 27 of 160 games over their time in Kansas City. An economic downturn in the Midwest played a role in this and they relocated to Colorado and became the Rockies after two miserable years.
Other cities have been given second chances for NHL teams, so a return to Kansas City is not without precedent. The true roadblock to a return is the number of locations that seem to be above them in the pecking order.
Atlanta is the biggest media market in the US that doesn’t have an NHL team and have expressed a desire to get a team back. Like Kansas City, they have already failed with a team there, twice.
Houston is the favorite to land the next franchise and for good reason. They are the fourth biggest market in the US and the current owner of the Houston Rockets would love to bring an NHL team to share the rink with the basketball team. The size of the market and stability of potential ownership are a tough duo to beat and are the main reason they have +300 odds to land the next team.
Canada is also an option, as the hockey crazed country has two potential markets in Hamilton and Quebec that could handle an NHL team, but both options also have hurdles to overcome.
Is it a longshot that Kansas City gets an NHL team? Of course, but if Bettman does indeed make the call to expand they will be in the conversation and the T-Mobile Center may finally get the tenant they deserve.
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