Strong Ownership, Viable Arena Could Make Houston Prime Candidate For NHL Expansion
Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta and the NHL reportedly have discussed the viability of a franchise there, and the city "passes, with flying colors, the three-pronged test that the NHL applies to new markets," according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.com. Houston has "strong local ownership, a modern hockey-friendly building (Toyota Center) and a fertile market." Logistically, this "makes sense for the NHL." It "balances the conferences, adding an additional team in the Western Conference and, more specifically, to the Central Division." That is where a "natural rivalry" with the Stars "will live, benefiting both clubs." The NHL has been "interested in Houston for years but could never justify the interest because the previous owner of the Rockets and the arena wasn't interested in having a team there." With those issues "seemingly solved by an owner aggressively courting an expansion team, the interest in Houston seems warranted" (ESPN.com, 11/20). In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote Houston is the current expansion city of "prominence the NHL has to leverage against cities such as Ottawa and Calgary, whose club owners are seeking new arenas." Houston "makes sense as a U.S. port if accompanied by a viable hockey infrastructure" (N.Y. POST, 11/19). In Houston, Brian Smith noted if the city "finally gets its long delayed Big Four, it could happen much sooner than later." Smith: "Will Houston's civic and business leaders proudly back hockey? Will casual sports fans in the suburbs show up for a losing team? Right now, only the Texans are afforded that latter luxury" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/18).
SEATTLE STILL VIABLE? ESPN.com's Emily Kaplan wrote Seattle "makes the most sense" for NHL expansion. It is "glaring that the NHL is at an uneven 31 teams, with an imbalance in the West." Seattle fits "snugly geographically -- and demographically -- in what the NHL would covet in its 32nd franchise." Advertisers "love it when the league attracts young, tech-savvy fans." Kaplan: "So why not target that audience directly in a metropolitan area that is home to six Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon, Expedia, Microsoft, Nordstrom and Starbucks?" (ESPN.com, 11/20).