WATCH: It may be the off-season, but there’s a lot of people talking hockey right now. It’s all because of the announcement that the league is exploring its expansion options. As Mike Le Couteur reports, at least two Canadian cities are in the running.
The NHL is officially exploring expanding its league beyond 30 teams, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Wednesday.
The expansion isn’t set in stone, Bettman made clear during his announcement, saying the league is simply taking a “good, hard look” at possibilities.
And despite the minimum $500 million expansion fee, there are definitely possibilities. Here are just a few:
WATCH: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stressed that there is no race towards expansion and Las Vegas does not have a headstart
The gambling capital of North America is one of the leading contenders for an NHL team. And there appears to be significant interest in the city as well as a season-ticket drive earlier this year received 13,200 deposits for seats at a new arena set to open in 2016. Winnipeg, in comparison, received 13,000.
The drive was led by Canadian native and poker star Daniel Negreanu who said the city is “absolutely starving” for a sports franchise.
“I’ve found the support to be overwhelming. People that live here, they’re dying for this,” he said during an interview with in February.
WATCH: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman weighed in possible interest from parties to bring a second team into the Toronto market.
Toronto is an obvious choice, right? There’s long been notable figures and conference board reports saying the city should have a(nother) hockey team.
A report from the Conference Board of Canada said in 2014 that the economic conditions were favourable enough that Toronto – as well as two other Canadian cities – could support another hockey team. The report noted that proximity to Canada’s economic centre brings with it big business, season-ticket holders, and sponsorship deals.
But the report didn’t tackle the reportedly cumbersome $100-million fee the new team would have to pay to the Toronto Maple Leafs to give up their territorial rights.
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Quebec City, the former home of the Colorado Avalanche and one of the Canadiens’ historic rivalries is another leading contender for an NHL team.
The city also has an established fan base, and a new 18,500-seat arena.
The NHL currently has 16 teams in the eastern conference and 14 in the western conference and if another team was born in Toronto or Quebec City, some conference juggling might be required to keep things even. It’s something the NHL is keeping in mind, however Bettman said Wednesday geography and imbalance aren’t the sole factors.
Logo of the NHL team Quebec Nordiques on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Richard Buchan/
Logo of the NHL team Quebec Nordiques on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Though sports fans might be preoccupied with the success of the Seattle Seahawks to care whether the NHL expands to Seattle, the northwestern United States city is one of the leading contenders.
Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur suggested the team may be a long shot as local billionaire Chris Hansen is waiting for an NBA team.
More American teams?
Much to the chagrin of some Canadian hockey fans who want to see the Stanley Cup brought north of the border, the expansion could be focused in the United States. Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, said Wednesday that people from Milwaukee, Portland, and Kansas City have also expressed interest in bringing an NHL franchise to their cities.