When the NHL announced that Las Vegas would be the upcoming expansion team, fans across the globe were shocked at some of the other possible expansion destinations that were not taken into consideration. Surely, we hope that Las Vegas will excel in the hockey market, but there is always the possibility of the NHL exploiting other huge hockey markets in the future.
There are current NHL teams who simply cannot hold a constant attendance. These teams suffer financially because it is tough to generate revenue if the tickets aren't selling. By taking some of the these teams with little attendance and relocating them to a new city, the market for that particular team can grow exponentially.
A lot of factors need to be taken into consideration in determining a future relocation or expansion. Firstly, the city of choice must have a suitable NHL-ready arena in order for the team to actually play the game of ice hockey. We have heard plenty of complaints on the quality of the ice from certain players that play on some of these low attendance teams, therefore, the arena would have to be fairly new or renovated thoroughly. Secondly, there needs to be some type of demand for a hockey team in that particular area.
The NHL does not want another team with low attendance. Having more teams that can fill in 20,000 seats on any given night is beneficial for both the city, as well as the business side of things for the NHL. There is plenty of potential, especially in North America where the game of hockey is almost like a religion for some fans.
16 Relocate: Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes currently sit at the bottom of the NHL in regards to attendance. They fail to fill up more than 70% of their max capacity at their home arena. This is awfully surprising for a team that has won a Stanley Cup in the current era.
A more suitable market may be fit for the Canes, as they do have a bright future and they will become a playoff contender once more. It would be great to see them perform in a new location where they could create a new identity and follow that up with a successful playoff run. As of right now, Carolina may not need an NHL team based on the current demand. A more suitable location could benefit much more from having a team such as the Hurricanes.
15 Potential Destination: Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton, Ontario could be one of those destinations for the Hurricanes to relocate to.
Hamilton is no newcomer to NHL expansion. In 1980, they did attempt to try and bring the Colorado Rockies to the FirstOntario Centre. This arena can seat more than 17,000 fans and is a suitable hockey arena for the current players of Carolina. The market is there as Ontario already has one successful NHL team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. If Ontario was able to transform the Canes into a team that can attract an audience as large as the Leafs, it would greatly benefit the NHL and Canada as well.
Canada would have 8 NHL teams if this were to happen and the Canadian hockey fans would have one more team that they can root for. The only thing preventing this is an NHL legislation that prevents NHL home arenas from being less than 50 miles away from each other. In this case, they would break that rule by being too close to the Toronto and Buffalo NHL teams.
14 Relocate: Arizona Coyotes
Having an NHL team in a desert-like environment such as Arizona is very inconvenient. Considering that the game of hockey is one played in a cold environment, it begs the question of why the NHL hasn’t relocated the Coyotes to another U.S. state or Canadian province.
In its current state, the Yotes do not average more than 14,000 fans per game on a given night. A potential relocation would look to increase that number which would give the Coyotes a bigger fanbase to play in front of. An NHL team with a strong home attendance helps spark some teams and in this case, that would play an important role for the Coyotes' players. The relocation shouldn't be too hard as there are other suitable location for a hockey team in North America.
13 Potential Destination: Houston, Texas
What they can do is relocate the Arizona Coyotes to another desert-like environment with more potential!
Houston, Texas is one of the largest cities in the U.S. without an NHL team. They feature the Toyota Centre which is a suitable NHL-ready arena and it can seat more than 17,000 individuals. So, why hasn’t the NHL capitalized on this yet? Well, the answer is simple. Houston does not really have a large demand for hockey.
In order to make this work, the demand would have to be increased. Texas already has a successful NHL team in the Dallas Stars, and if that success were to be replicated in Houston, the results would be outstanding. There is work to do but it wouldn’t be fair to call this an impossible feat.
12 Relocate: Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers are the next team that would feel the advantages of a new location. Attendance has gone up at the BB&T Center from last season but they still fail to fill up the 19,250 seats at this large arena.
With the rise of many young players, the Panthers have a bright future and the latest playoff run is just a glimpse of what they can accomplish in the near future. This is exactly what would fuel a new location. Florida already has the Tampa Bay Lightning and this is why a relocation would be ideal. The NHL should watch the Panthers' attendance closely for the next few seasons in order to come to a reasonable conclusion.
11 Potential Destination: Seattle, Washington
Seattle is not shy to target the hockey market. They were once even granted a conditional NHL franchise but this didn’t follow through. The problem Seattle currently faces is the fact that their current arena, the KeyArena, is not a suitable NHL arena.
In order for this relocation to be possible, a new arena would have to be built and investors would have to be gathered. If the market is there, it would garner interest from many investors and the ideal location may be built. This all seems far-fetched for now but the NHL could look at Seattle in the near future for an NHL expansion or relocation. The area has hockey interest which is eager to be capitalized upon. Time can only tell, but an NHL future for Seattle could seem reasonable in the future.
10 Relocate: New York Islanders
The Islanders are currently trying to build a playoff contending team. It seems hard to do if attendance numbers are low and the team feels unappreciated. There have even been numerous complaints about the ice quality at the Barclays Centre from players.
Whether or not the Islanders can muster enough funds to upgrade the arena is entirely up to them, but overall, there are many other destinations who already have a suitable hockey arena. Let’s face it, the ice is an essential part of the game of hockey and if it is not to the players' liking, it is tough to play well on home ice. The relocation would consider the factor of better ice quality, as well as a bigger attendance number.
9 Potential Destination: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
In 1983, there was a possibility that the St. Louis Blues would be relocated to Saskatoon but the NHL disapproved of this and we never saw this become a reality. Saskatoon has a hockey arena which can seat up to 15,000 people, and currently hosts their WHL team, the Saskatoon Blades.
They also had the luxury of hosting a round robin World Juniors game in 2010, which had attendance skyrocket to max capacity. This proves that the hockey market is available but a relocation would all depend on whether or not the NHL wants another Canadian hockey team. If it improves the quality of the ice for the Islanders’ players while increasing the demand, it would certainly be possible.
8 Relocate: New Jersey Devils
Choosing the Devils for a relocation was not easy. They have sported many hockey legends in the past but it may be soon time to research a more suitable location for the Devils.
It has been more than three years since New Jersey was able average an attendance of over 95% capacity. This begs the question of whether or not the demand for the Devils is declining due to the fact that they are in a rebuild or because the team as a whole is unappealing to fans. There is no rush but if this continues as a trend, it may be something that the NHL will look at. There are other suitable markets that would potentially raise attendance records even though the team is in a rebuild.
7 Potential Destination: Markham, Ontario
The GTA Centre in Markham, Ontario is an unbelievable NHL arena that is currently in pre-construction. It can seat over 20,000 attendants and it looks to become one of the best hockey arenas to date.
This really makes us look to the future. What if Markham actually got an NHL team like the Devils? Would the success be as great as the neighboring Toronto Maple Leafs? There is no doubting that Ontario has a large market for hockey, as the Maple Leafs were part of the “Original Six” and remain one of the NHL pioneers. Clearly, investors saw an opportunity as the arena would cost millions of dollars and they want a return on this investment. Time will tell if the GTA Centre becomes a reality, and what it will serve is a mystery based on the future of NHL expansion.
6 Relocate: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets are a team on the rise, and with a potential lengthy playoff run, attendance records would be on the rise. However, attendance numbers are not as good as expected. They fail to fill up on average more than 90% of the Nationwide Arena and while a relocation may be unlikely, one can speculate.
The Jackets are a fairly new team. They have only been operating for 17 years and they are currently heading for one of their best patch in franchise history. The NHL should closely monitor how well success is perceived in Columbus. If the fans start to lose interest, a new location might be more ideal for the Jackets. Again, this is unlikely for now but the future is unknown.
5 Potential Destination: Indianapolis, Indiana
A lot of people may not know this, but the greatest hockey player to ever play the game once played in Indianapolis. That’s right, Wayne Gretzky once played for a team based in Indiana.
While the largest arena in Indianapolis is not really suited for the NHL, it can be if time and money is put into it. They are already home to an amateur hockey team, as well as an NFL and NBA team. There may be room to add an NHL team in the mix if the potential to expand the current market is there. If it were able to top the demand in Columbus, Indianapolis might be plausible but this is a bit far-fetched as of right now. All in all, there is no denying that there is demand for sports in Indianapolis and it would not be surprising to see a future hockey team in this state.
4 Relocate: Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators have no problem filling up their 17,000 capacity arena. The demand seems to be overwhelming as it is actually going over capacity. It might be time for Nashville to invest some money into their arena to allow a larger number of people to attend games.
If they fail to do so, and demand eventually falls to a standstill as it once did more than five years ago, a relocation could be possible. The Predators are not in a rebuild and the team boasts plenty of talent. Therefore, it is expected that fans want to support their team. In the end, all teams go through a rebuild at some point and if fans fail to support their team through thick and thin, another city might be able to stomach that.
3 Potential Destination: Kansas City, Missouri
In 2007, Kansas City opened the Sprint Centre. An NHL-ready arena which is owned by the same company that owns the Kings in Los Angeles. The arena is much newer and sports a larger capacity than the Bridgestone Arena where the Predators play currently. A market shift can be difficult to do but if it is done properly, the success the Preds have in Nashville can potentially carry over to Missouri.
It is reassuring that the owners of this arena have NHL experience. If a relocation is not possible, an expansion team could become a possibility. If the target market is reached, it can bring a large amount of revenue for the city, giving the NHL another successful team. It is important to note that an NHL team once played in Kansas City but it failed to attract a desired attendance. This was in the 1970s and times can change for the better.
2 Relocate: Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche are facing one of the roughest patches of their franchise. The team is failing to perform and that is why they can barely attract an attendance of 15,000 people on a given night.
The fans may be getting fed up. After many failed playoff runs, and with the team underperforming, people are starting to lose interest in the Avs. With star players such as Matt Duchene on the trade block, fans are left with little to appreciate. This is not something the NHL is taking with open arms. Bad attendance and lack of appreciation for a team does not bode well with management. If the revenue is not generated, it is tough to run an NHL team. This is why they may need a new identity, and perhaps going back to their roots can give the Avs a resurgence.
1 Potential Destination: Quebec City, Quebec
There are countless Quebec hockey fans that would love another hockey team. When the NHL announced the Las Vegas expansion, Quebec felt left out and the potential for another hockey team in Quebec felt impossible.
Quebec City sports the Videotron Centre which is a brand new arena that can seat more than 18,000 hockey fans. Not too far away lies the Montreal Canadiens who attract more than 20,000 hockey fans at the Bell Centre. Imagine if this was replicated in Quebec City. The Avalanche would have an unbelievable fan base to play in front of even during this rebuild. Quebec hockey fans would welcome them with open arms as it's a team they are familiar with. For 16 years, the Avalanche played under the Quebec Nordiques and perhaps going back to their roots is exactly what this NHL franchise needs to get back on its feet.