NHL Expansion Rumours: Why Now?

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Relocation rumours have always been a norm in the hockey community. When a team has issues or is not deemed worthy enough for the community the best possible solution is to ship them off to a more “deserving” city and hope that works.

Quebec City? Hamilton? Saskatchewan?

These are markets that have been deemed worthy even without understanding the sheer complexity it takes to bring a franchise to a city. If they believe a market is worthy enough to play the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens two, to four times a year they will go fight for them on social media and in chatrooms. Even the media has been fighting for Quebec City for as long as they could.

But now there has been a new update in market rumours. Instead of relocation, expansion. It has only been two seasons since the Seattle Kraken joined the league and already there are expansion rumours.

However, this isn’t some random guy on Reddit saying that Bettman is looking to add to a team in Wood Buffalo. No, the first tweet about a rumoured expansion was John Buccigross, about how a team was coming back to Atlanta for the third time.

Atlanta is a nice city that has failed to keep an NHL twice. First, was the Atlanta Flames relocated to the Calgary Flames, and later was the Atlanta Thrasher who later turned into the Winnipeg Jets. While this tweet did create some buzz, it was out of nowhere and no other reporter was talking about an expansion to Atlanta.

That was until Kevin Weekes, a broadcaster with ESPN, added to the rumours and said that there was going to be an expansion to Atlanta and Houston. Soon enough the floodgates started rushing out about the two cities possibly getting a team without any confirmation from the cities or the NHL.

There could be a plan in place with the NHL and the cities to bring the 33rd and 34th franchises to those cities. But as of right now, the idea seems to be nothing but wishful thoughts and the hockey community’s imagination taking over the story. There even has been a communal roadmap in place for how the Atlanta franchise will fold again and Quebec City will finally get a franchise after so long.

While the idea that people are thinking about future markets is nothing new in the community, the fact is that people that are so close to the league are readily putting out information. There is an event that might make this situation make more sense as this has happened in the past.

The Arizona Coyotes are currently waiting for a vote to build their future rink in the city of Tempe. It has been a common tactic for the NHL to flirt with other cities when important talks about the location are happening. When the Pittsburgh Penguins were trying to get a new arena in 2007, the team had aggressively pushed the idea of the team being relocated to Kansas City if there was no arena deal for the team. Of course, the Pittsburgh Penguins are still around and it leads to nothing.

It’s just that this type of talk from the league is not new and we will see it in the future when other teams are looking for better or new arenas. Of course, the Coyotes’ situation is completely different from years past and instead of relocation talks, there are expansion talks.

The NHL will expand one day. There is no question as long as it makes money. It doesn’t matter what people say on social media, people are still going to games and a new team will not impact that decision. If Atlanta and Houston are decided to be next in line for a franchise good for them. But no matter what, fans will continue to dream of the big “what if” in other markets. That will never escape the NHL as long as there are cities without a team.

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