NHL Might Think Third Time Is The Charm For Atlanta Expansion

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You’d think that the National Hockey League would’ve learned it’s less the first two times Atlanta-based franchises failed to gain any long-term traction.

That does not seem to be the case.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says that the league might be able to overcome some of the issues they’ve encountered in past forays into the city.

“I think some of the challenges that we’ve seen in the past in Atlanta can be overcome,” Daly said in an interview with ESPN.

“I think times have changed pretty dramatically and the market demographics have changed pretty dramatically since the first time we went there and then again in 1999,” he said, before adding that more big businesses call the city home than did when there were last NHL teams there.

Well, you’d certainly hope so if the league decides to give Atlanta a go for the third time. The NHL previously tried to set up shop there with the Atlanta Flames. They called the city home from 1972 to 1980 before fleeing to Calgary,

The NHL tried again with the Atlanta Thrashers who lasted a bit longer, staying in town from 1999 to 2011. They also skipped across the border to Canada where they became the current Winnipeg Jets.

Atlanta Thrashers Ondrej Pavelec
It has been over a decade since the Atlanta Thrashers were purchased and relocated to Winnipeg. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images)

Atlanta Makes Sense Despite Its Terrible Track Record

Atlanta is a massive media market that the NHL doesn’t have a presence in at the moment. That coupled with the success of the most recent expansion teams in the Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken, and you can understand why they would willing to try to solve the NHL expansion riddle once again.

Daly mentioned that one possible way an Atlanta franchise could work this time is if they played in a suburb. Both the Flames and Thrashers played in downtown Atlanta.

Hockey can work in the Atlanta suburbs. The ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators have been in the suburb of Duluth since 2003.

Daly said that the league is open to hearing from anyone who has a plan for a team in any market. However, earlier this year, Commissioner Gary Bettman said something similar but noted that expansion isn’t a priority.

Atlanta is just one of the cities that has popped up as a possible NHL expansion or relocation destination. Others include Houston (which along with Atlanta are the two biggest TV markets in the country without NHL teams), Salt Lake City, and Kansas City.

I guess I should add Quebec City to that list, but we all know that’s a pipedream…

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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.

One Comment

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  1. Just stop. Seriously. Atlanta is not, was not, and never will be a hockey town. Ever.

    Neither will Houston. TV markets do not determine what will be a good place for a hockey team. Hockey fans do. You would have thought the NHL would have figured this out with their failed Phoenix experiment, along with the two Atlanta failures.

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