Three cities that deserve an NHL franchise
The NHL will welcome its 32nd franchise in 2021, when Seattle joins the league. The team will play in a remodeled version of KeyArena, which was abandoned by the NBA's Supersonics in 2008.
Seattle has never had an NHL team and hasn’t had a professional hockey club since 1975 (the Totems), though it hasn’t been for lack of trying.
Here are some other cities that could be a good fit for an NHL club, assuming a team wants to relocate or the league announces plans to add a 33rd franchise.
There is a history of hockey in Indianapolis. Wayne Gretzky scored his first professional goal as a member of the WHA’s Indianapolis Racers in 1978.
However, the only current professional hockey club in Indianapolis is the Indy Fuel, an ECHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. In nearby Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Komets have been a hockey institution since 1952, predating all North American teams, with the exception of the NHL’s Original Six clubs and the AHL’s Hershey Bears.
Indianapolis is the eighth-largest city by population in the U.S. without an NHL club, and it has a tailor-made arena already in place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.
The NHL had a team in Cleveland, when the Barons played there from 1976-1978. The franchise, which was ceaselessly strapped for cash since their founding in 1967 as the California Seals, finished last in the Adams Division in both seasons, before it merged with the North Stars in June of 1978.
The club drew few fans, but with an NHL-ready arena at Cavaliers’ Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, located in the heart of Cleveland (instead of Richfield Coliseum, the former home of the Barons, which was more than a half-hour drive away in Richfield Township, Ohio), it could be time to bring the NHL back to the "Rock and Roll Capital of the World.”
The state of Texas already has a hockey team. The Dallas Stars have thrived since they relocated from Minnesota in 1993. However, Houston is the fourth-largest market in the United States, and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has expressed interest in bringing hockey to “Space City.”
“There’s not a month that goes by that we don’t have some type of talks about the NHL,” Fertitta told Houston Public Media’s Houston Matters radio program last year. “And it’s definitely something that one day I look forward to bringing to Houston.”
A Houston hockey franchise would fit nicely inside the Rockets’ Toyota Center, which was built in 2003.