Some quick thoughts on expansion

August 29, 2014, by

Over the past few days, various reports have come in claiming the possible expansion into, depending on the report, anywhere from one to four (!) new markets. The consistent player in all these reports is Las Vegas, to be spearheaded by film and TV mogul, Jerry Bruckheimer. Additionally, Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City and another Toronto franchise have been bandied about.

The chatter has also come in several different permutations. Some reports have expansion of two teams, some four, some moving two teams and expanding two teams. There is very little consistency at this point. More speculation than reality. Whether any of it comes to pass at all is completely up in the air, but let’s chew on it a little. 

Bruckheimer has been trying to convince the NHL to place a team in a Sin City for over a decade now. Questions about a dedicated local fan base, how much of a draw hockey is amidst Vegas’ shenanigans, etc. have persisted throughout his pitch, and aside from a “multi-use” facility that can allegedly accommodate a hockey rink, those questions still linger.

Although, considering the four team expansion on its face for a second, Seattle (a city said over and over to be in top consideration for a franchise) would add two more Western Conference teams to the fray. In my estimation it is much more difficult to find viable locations out west versus the hockey mad east coast. However, there are major problems associated with this possible set up.

First off, a four team expansion would put the league at 34 teams. No top professional sports league in the world has this many franchises. Not to mention it would continue the problem of an odd number of franchises in each conference, which makes scheduling something of a headache. Furthermore, while adding four new teams would create a huge influx of jobs available, for both staff and players, it would presumably dilute the overall league talent pool in a fairly significant way, not to mention artificially drive up the cost of players as high end stars become even more in demand. I think we can all agree, the last thing we want are more Brooks Orpik contracts.

Then there are the suggestions of moving two existing franchises and expanding two more into four of those cities, thus creating a more manageable 32-team structure. Obviously this works better for scheduling purposes, and there has been talk of “modest” expansion on the horizon, but the biggest problem is, aside from the Panthers, who else do you move?

The Coyotes would normally be the odds-on favorite (see what I did there? Because Vegas) to move, but their new ownership group just purchased the team with an understanding of keeping the franchise in the desert, and they just recently signed a new sponsorship deal with Gila Casinos.

Nashville? Carolina? Columbus? That second team doesn’t exactly jump out at you. I suppose we will know soon enough if there is fire with this smoke, but it’s fun to speculate on. That’s the end of my little rant, what are your thoughts on potential expansion? To expand or relocate? What teams? Should make for some fun conversation at least until real hockey starts up again.

Categories : Business of Hockey


  1. Dave says:

    I’d say the Panthers can relocate, but the biggest thing isn’t necessarily fans in the stands. Bettman has been expanding to huge tv markets to market them when negotiating tv deals. Phoenix and Miami are huge markets.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      Right. Expansion should be about growing the game fiscally. That means expanding to large media markets. Miami may not draw very well, but it is one of the largest media markets in the south, and that means something.

      Teams like Columbus or Nashville makes more sense for relocation if the NHL is interested in targeting the weaker markets.

      It’s also why expanding to Las Vegas never really made sense to me. Seattle and Toronto make the most sense for two “new” markets.

      • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

        Columbus is a team on the rise. They are going to be competitive for the first time in a while. They have a playoff worthy roster with young players and vets around the lineup. A strong farm program with kids coming up to fill spots in the lineup.
        Nashville doesn’t do very well but I would think Carolina is just about finished with hockey as far as the fan base goes.
        Moving the 2 weakest teams and putting them in a strong hockey market like Seattle or QC makes the league grow more each season. If they add teams by expansion they have to be out West.
        Evening out the Conferences should be the only reason for an expansion draft.

  2. Leatherneckinlv says:

    I think the league needs to expand by two in the West. There are many ways to solve this problem, such as expansion combined with relocation. Bottom line is 2 teams need to be added.
    Seattle is perfect, Houston and K.C. are very viable as they will have instant rivalries. Vegas I am take it or leave it on that one. I live in Las Vegas and I really cant see a fan base loyal to them. 90% of the fans going to the games in Vegas will be rooting for the opposition. Quebec makes a ton of sense. I was shocked when they relocated.
    There are a few ways this can be done, it will require expansion though.

  3. Johnny Red says:

    34 four teams is just plain dumb! Seattle and K.C. would even up the league for east and west. Then move 1 or 2 of the weaker markets to Toronto or Quebec where they will thrive. Mr. Betman seems to be stuck on sunbelt areas when all they care about is Nascar!!

  4. Matt says:

    Here’s my vision for a 32 team NHL. Expansion teams would be 2, and 1 relocation.

    I created two 16 team conferences, split into 4 divisions of 4 teams. 2 of those divisions (one in each conference) are all Canadian teams.

    NHL 32 teams

    East Conference – 16 teams (4×4)

    East 1 – Canada East
    Quebec/Hamilton (Expansion)
    Toronto Maple Leafs
    Ottawa Senators
    Montreal Canadians

    East 2 – Atlantic
    New York Rangers
    New York Islanders
    New Jersey Devils
    Philadelphia Flyers

    East 3 – North
    Boston Bruins
    Buffalo Sabres
    Pittsburgh Penguins
    Detroit Red Wings

    East 4 – South
    Washington Capitals
    Carolina Hurricanes
    Tampa Bay Lightning
    Columbus Blue Jackets

    Western Conference – 16 teams (4×4)

    West 1 – Canada West
    Winnipeg Jets
    Calgary Flames
    Vancouver Canucks
    Edmonton Oilers

    West 2 – Pacific
    Seattle (Expansion)
    San Jose Sharks
    Anaheim Ducks
    Los Angeles Kings

    West 3 – Central
    Arizona Coyotes
    Colorado Avalanche
    Dallas Stars
    Minnesota Wild

    West 4 –
    St. Louis Blues
    Kansas City (from Florida Panthers)
    Nashville Predators
    Chicago Blackhawks

    • Leatherneckinlv says:

      Seattle and Vancouver need to be in the same division

      • Matt says:

        I thought about it, especially being so close, it’s obvious rival, but I really love the idea of having 2 Canadian divisions.

    • Matt says:

      I also had a variation where instead of moving the Panthers from Florida to KC, they go to Vegas and are in the new ‘Central’ division. That would also move the Wild into the division with Blackhawks, Blue, Preds.

      As much and I’m a skeptic of a Vegas team working, they have the stadium in place and a prospective owner. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

  5. Snake says:

    As a Ranger fan living in the epi-center of NASCAR country (North Carolina for all y’all that are unfamiliar with the pro-wrestling version of auto racing), I can tell you that the ‘Canes have a good deal of support in this sports rabid state. I haven’t looked at attendance figures or gone to many games other then when the Rangers are playing, but with the amount of transplanted Yankees in the area continuing to grow at a nauseatingly rapid pace, I’d be very surprised if Carolina was chosen for relocation.

    There’s a lot of upside here. Then when you consider that the population in the Raleigh area is quite small relative to other markets where hockey has failed miserably, the area appears to be one with a very solid future.

    I would think that Houston would be a good potential market for a new or relocated franchise. It’s a large city and minor league hockey had some support back in the day. I’m not sure where it stands now though with the changing demographics.

    Unless a franchise is an abject failure that bleeds cash, I think you have to give the sport a chance to grow. Hockey just doesn’t receive enough media attention outside of the major hockey markets. When you place a franchise in a city like Nashville, Raleigh or Columbus, you need to give people a chance to learn about the sport before moving them…and that takes time.

    • Walt says:


      We lived in Houston when the WHA was formed, and Gordie Howe skated with both Mark, and Marty. They were the champs, and won the Avco cup two years in a row, but the following wasn’t that great.

      That town is a football city, college at that. The Oiler moved from there, and it took many years for the NFL to put another team in Houston. Bottom line, this would be a major mistake to put an NHL team there, they wouldn’t support them at all.

  6. Ray says:

    That which people view as obvious is not obvious at all. I don’t want more teams. If there must be expansion, I prefer 31 teams simply because it is the least expansion possible. Fewer teams is better because you get to play teams more times.

    BUT if you ignore this, 34 is a perfect number and 32 is not. With 34, you play every team in your conference three times and every team in the other conference twice. There is no nice balanced schedule with 32 teams. We don’t have one now. As to odd number of teams in a conference, so what. There is so much inter-conference play, scheduling isn’t hard.

    In fact, having an even number of teams is only important in sports like baseball where teams play every day, or football, where they play every week. In basketball and hockey, it is irrelevant.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      A balanced schedule doesn’t make up for the diluted talent pool an additional two teams would create.

  7. NYR Fan in Dallas TX says:

    It seems as if this COULD actually work. Originally from NY and now living in Dallas, Tx and being a young age (22) I have actually seen some ups and downs in hockey attendance. For the last 5-7 years attendance during Stars games has declined rapidly. Only this year, late in the season, did the attendance pick up.

    I’m a firm believer in all it takes for attendance to pick up is an INTERESTING team. The Stars are young, fast, and skilled. My best friends who NEVER watch hockey or even went to a game came with me this year to every Stars playoff game and even a few during the regular season.

    The problems with Nashville, Carolina, Columbus and Florida are that they are by no means interesting. Give the fan base something to be excited about every once in a while.

  8. mikeyyy says:

    I’d add two teams

    One in….wait for it

    Mexico City

    The other i would put in London England.

    Its no small secret that there are lots of ex soccer players playing in the NHL.

    There are some that say soccer skills make a better hockey player.

    Now bring the cold arena to the hot new Mexico city and see if you can garner a fan base.

    London, same thing. But a pro team would be a draw, and would allow the NHL to showcase hockey to Europe on an NHL level.

    If we are talking fiscal. This would make the NHL international, sorry us and Canada don’t count as international.

    Worst case they move those teams back I to the us. But think about the possibilities..

    • Joel says:

      Mikeyyy, your post is tough to follow. As a Ranger fan living in southern Florida, the tri-county area may have 5,000,000 people but a hockey market it ain’t. Word is the Panthers get an average of 3,000 households to watch their cable telecasts and their production sucks. There was also a recent story that the mayor of Broward County reached out to some consultant to explore what it would mean to the county if the Panthers split. I’d be surprised if the Panthers DIDN’T leave.

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