The Future of NHL Expansion
Tucker Franklin is the founder of Nosebleed Knowledge. For more content from him go to nosebleedknowledge.wordpress.com
In an expansion year in the NHL, the infant club in Vegas took the league by storm. Seeing the organization make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals provokes thoughts on how the league would handle adding another team, possibly in Canada.
To decide if the NHL should entertain further expansion, the NHL Board of Governors accepted applications for new franchises during the 2015 offseason. Two potential ownership groups submitted applications for prospective teams in Las Vegas and Quebec City. Where the new team landed geographically between two conferences was not a primary consideration for the NHL. The earliest time when a new franchise could start play was the 2017–18 season. On June 22, 2016, the NHL approved expansion to Las Vegas starting in the 2017–18 season with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Quebec City submission was deferred to a later date.
Quebec City has hosted two NHL teams in its history. The first team to call the city home was the Quebec Bulldogs. They lasted for 42 years when they moved to Hamilton, Ontario. The second and more well known team is the Quebec Nordiques. The Nordiques laid claim to the city from 1972 to 1979 in the World Hockey Association, and from then on to 1995 as an NHL team. That same year the team to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche.
The challenge for teams in Quebec City is the market size. Quebec City would now be in the league’s second-smallest market, ahead of only Winnipeg. However, Silver’s analysis suggested that the Quebec City market was comparable to those of Winnipeg, Buffalo, and Washington, D.C. in terms of avid hockey fans.
After the NHL’s most recent expansion, it now brings the total number of teams to 31. The teams are split into two conferences, 16 in the Eastern Conference and 15 Western Conference. To make the league complete they needs to add another expansion team. While the Western Conference lacks one team and Quebec lays on the east coast, this doesn’t prove to be a problem. What the league should do is create a new expansion franchise in a western city such as Seattle or Kansas City and move the team in Carolina to Quebec City to make an equal 16 on each side.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been bitten by attendance woes and the league has threatened to pull the organization from Charlotte. In this year’s home opener, Carolina could only draw 7,892 to PNC Arena. After two home games this year the Hurricanes are second to last in total and average attendance, only to the Islanders who have played one of their home games on a Monday afternoon.
In years past, the city of Quebec has been called on to host preseason games. Before the 2011–12 season, an exhibition game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning was played at the Colisée Pepsi, the former home of the Nordiques. The Canadiens were well received despite being from Montreal. The Canadiens were the away team on the scoreboard for this event. Montreal was also scheduled to host the Carolina Hurricanes at the Colisée Pepsi in 2012, but that game was canceled due to a league wide lockout. In Sept. 2012, construction started on an 18,000-seat arena in Quebec City that would eventually become known as Centre Vidéotron. The arena cost $400 million and was split equally between the provincial and municipal governments. The arena opened three years later.
With a new arena, a fan base wanting to get back involved and a fellow franchise struggling with attendance, this has created a perfect storm for Quebec to take advantage of the situation and put themselves back into the league.