According to a tweet from SportsBusinessNews’ Howard Bloom, the NHL plans to add four cities by 2017 with teams playing in Las Vegas, Seattle, Toronto and Quebec City.
After Kansas City opened Sprint Center, they’ve tried to attract the NHL by hosting preseason games. The last game was on Sept. 27, 2011 before the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins played in front of a sellout crowd.
If this comes to fruition, Vegas will land its first major league professional sports organization. Seattle has always drawn interest from the NHL. Toronto, home to the Maple Leafs, are the highest grossing team. Canada’s second biggest city could certainly maintain a second team. Quebec City, who lost the Nordiques to Colorado, is opening a brand new arena in 2015.
In late 2011, I had the chance to talk with Bernie Federko, longtime Blues player and now television commentator on the broadcasts. I asked him if he believed Kansas City would ever get another NHL franchise? (The Kansas City Scouts played two seasons at Kemper Arena from 74-76 before becoming the Colorado Rockies…now the New Jersey Devils).
Federko said he didn’t see that happening. He said there wasn’t enough of a grass roots fan base where the sport could grow. He pointed to the youth hockey leagues in St. Louis as an example of how a fan base will continue to grow in the St. Louis area. Kansas City, not having a foundation to build on, would make it unattractive to the NHL.
Hockey on the minor league level has thrived in Independence with the Missouri Mavericks. I get Quebec and Toronto. Those cities can certainly support hockey. The appeal for Vegas is that it could draw a lot of out of town fans who want to watch their hockey team play in the middle of winter, plus take in the sights around Vegas as a vacation. Seattle is the wild card in all of this. That city last the Super Sonics…could they sustain an NHL team?