Gary Bettman Shoots Down Rumored NHL Expansion

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In recent weeks, rumors have circulated that the NHL was looking to expand yet again. However, commissioner Gary Bettman says that isn’t the case.

He was asked about the expansion rumors at the league’s annual GM meetings in Florida. It seems that while it’s on their radar, it’s not a priority.

“We’re not in an expansion mode right now,” Bettman said. “There continues to be a number of people, entities, and cities expressing interest in having an NHL franchise where they don’t have one, places like Atlanta, like Houston, like Quebec City. But it’s not really something, at least right now, that’s anywhere close to the front burner for us.”

Atlanta, Houston, and Quebec City are some of the cities that were part of the expansion rumors. It’s interesting that the league has received interest in putting teams there it’s just that they’re not in a hurry.

It does seem like the League would start to get a little bloated beyond 32 teams, but I suppose if they can add a profitable team somewhere, then it might make sense from a dollars-and-cents perspective.

The NHL’s most recent round of expansion started in 2017 with the debut of the Vegas Golden Knights. the Seattle Kraken followed a few years later and hit the ice in 2021. Before Vegas, the league hadn’t expanded in nearly 20 years, since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild joined the league in 2000.

Houston, Quebec City, and Atlanta (again) had been rumored expansion cities. (Getty Images)

Do Houston, Quebec City, Or Atlanta Even Make Sense?

If the NHL wanted to expand, easily the most viable option of those three cities is Houston. It’s the largest market in the United States without an NHL presence. The city has supported WHA and AHL teams in the past and given the NHL’s recent successes when it comes to expansion, it’d probably work again.

A Houston-based team would also have a built-in geographic rivalry with the Dallas Stars. Houston isn’t just a viable expansion city, it’s also the logical place to move the Arizona Coyotes if they can’t get an arena situation worked out in the next couple of years.

You can never count out Quebec City because it’s in Canada, but outside of nostalgia, going back there doesn’t make sense for the league.

Another head-scratcher is the talk of Atlanta expansion… again. That has already failed and moved to Canada twice. The Atlanta Flames left for Calgary in the early ’80s and the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg in 2011.

The one intriguing thing about the Atlanta option is that the rumor was for the team to play in the suburb of Alpharetta. That may be a more viable approach and has worked for other teams to varying degrees (the Florida Panthers come to mind).

If expansion isn’t in the cards at the moment, the league still has options.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.

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