The NHL expanded to Las Vegas last season and the Golden Knights made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. They were perhaps the most successful expansion team in NHL history. The NHL also announced expansion into Seattle late last year. The NHL will be the second of the four major sports leagues to expand to 32 teams along with the NFL. With two new teams in the league, the NHL enters new markets and new fan bases. Hockey is a sport for everyone and the more fan bases in North America the better. What other cities need an NHL team? Which fan bases will provide exhilarating environments for a hockey team? These 10 cities should be candidates for NHL expansion in the future.
1. Quebec City
Quebec City once had a hockey team, the Quebec Nordiques. The team left Quebec City in 1995 to move out west to Denver. The Nordiques had an intense rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens in the 80s. Quebec City deserves a new hockey team for its fans. It has been 24 years and counting since an NHL team was in Quebec. Another added bonus to a team in Quebec City is a renewed rivalry with the city of Montreal.
Similar to Quebec, Hartford also had a hockey team. The Whalers moved south to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1997. Hartford may not be a large city, but the fan base was loyal during the Whalers tenure in Connecticut. A new team would fit perfectly in the region along with other northeastern cities such as Boston, Buffalo, and Montreal.
Baltimore would bring a fresh market in the Mid-Atlantic. Close proximity to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C. may bring new rivalries as well. Baltimore is a great sports town. The Orioles and Ravens have had great success here. An NHL team in Baltimore could have success on the ice.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States. It is a fast-growing community with excellent sports fans. Houston has 3 sports teams — the Astros, Rockets, and Texans. Those teams play baseball, basketball, and football. Hockey in Houston is almost too easy. It brings a new market to Texas and the loyal sports fans are already there.
Indianapolis is a typical Midwest city, and Midwesterners love hockey. Expanding in Indianapolis would be an excellent move by the NHL. It would bring new hockey fans from the state and new rivalries with Chicago or Detroit would thrive. Indiana may be a basketball state, but that does not mean there isn't room for a hockey team in town.
The NHL expanded to the desert before Wisconsin. Residents of the state are long overdue for an NHL team. Hockey is almost as popular as football in the state. The popularity of the sport would skyrocket with the addition of an NHL team. Once again, geography makes the decision to expand an even easier one. Milwaukee is a great location for regional rivalries with Chicago, St. Louis, or Minnesota.
7. Kansas City
Kansas City had a hockey team in the mid-70s, but the Scouts had very little success. Today, a new hockey would be worth the investment for the NHL. It would attract many fans from mid-America, create sound geographic rivalries, and create a new market for the NHL. Kansas City sports fans love their Chiefs and the Royals. A hockey team would make KC a more well-rounded sports city.
8. Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City deserves another sports franchise. Its NBA team, the Jazz, has not been championship contenders since the late 90s. Utah would be the perfect location for another western hockey team. Expansion out west is nothing new for the NHL. Adding a team in Salt Lake City would bring in the fans and the money.
Portland is another West Coast city with only one sports organization, the Trailblazers. The city of Portland would be receptive to an NHL franchise. With the announcement of a franchise in Seattle, Portland would make perfect sense for a new team. Adding more teams to the west coast would counter the many teams the NHL has on the east coast.
10. San Diego
Hockey is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of San Diego. But, some thought adding a team in Vegas was a bad idea, and the Golden Knights are successful thus far. San Diego is one of the largest cities in America and its only sports team is the Padres after the Chargers left town. A new hockey team in Southern California is just what the NHL needs. A team close to Los Angeles and Anaheim is great for breeding rivalries.
Each of these cities has fun things to do whether it is sports related or not. But, none of them have a hockey team. The Seattle franchise will be the 32nd in the NHL. One day a sports league will hit 40 organizations. The NHL and the owners should ask themselves if they should be first of the NFL. NHL expansion rumors come around each season, but new cities should be serious contenders for expansion. These 10 cities all bring something new to the table and have plenty to offer new fan bases.