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Houston and Las Vegas rank among Business Journal’s top markets for an NHL team

Aug 20, 2011, 5:00 PM EDT

NHL Award Nominee Media Availability Getty Images

In the grand scheme of things, the NHL’s landing back in Winnipeg has been a smashing success so far. That being said, there are more than a few people who are skeptical about the Jets’ long-term future for the simple fact that they play in a small market. Optimists counter that the passion level is high enough that a limited market won’t doom the revamp.

Of course, the ex-Atlanta Thrashers weren’t the only team in danger of relocating, which generates plenty of discussion about which markets might be the next one(s) to receive an NHL team. The most common duo are usually two Canadian markets: Hamilton, Ontario and Quebec City. Once you get down to the United States markets, Kansas City and Seattle have been hot topics lately, whether that attention is justified or not.

American markets score well in one study of potential NHL markets

The Business Journals’ On Numbers tried to tackle the question of which markets are ideal for an NHL team based on the total personal income of a given market’s population. Riverside-San Bernardino (California) ranked number one while Houston, Bridgeport-Stamford (Connecticut), Las Vegas, Virginia Beach-Norfolk, Providence, Austin, Hartford, Sacramento and Richmond rounded out the top 10. There were 22 markets that met the Biz Journal’s benchmark total personal income base of $37.6 billion, with Atlanta* (11th place), San Antonio (14th), Portland (19) and Seattle (20) being among the most interesting markets.. The biggest shocker might be the inclusion of Honolulu, Hawaii at the 15 spot.

Meanwhile, Quebec City came in at 31 and Hamilton, Ontario earned a 33rd place ranking, with both markets earning a “borderline” label and a score of 80 on the study’s capacity index (the top 22 all hit 100).

source: Getty ImagesPros and cons of the study

There are obvious flaws to this study since it fails to measure a market’s history with the sport (I’m having trouble picturing hula dancers at a hockey game), the availability of an NHL-ready arena, the probability of finding reliable local ownership and the general hunger for hockey.

That being said, there are some positives to take away from the study, as well. The economic situations of cities in and around Hartford make the dreams of a Whalers rebirth seem reasonable. Houston looks like strange place for the NHL in some ways – especially since the team would face opposition from the professional teams that have already been established – but they obviously have some history with hockey in the form of the Aeros. There are many who believe that the NHL might bring the first major professional sports team to Las Vegas, although there are obvious risks when it comes to gambling and basing a franchise in Sin City in general. Seattle and Portland could be nice fits from a geographic standpoint, with Seattle being especially interesting since an NHL team might be able to heal some of the wounds caused by the heartbreaking loss of the NBA’s Sonics.

The Biz Journals might call Quebec City “borderline,” but they’re obviously one of the first markets in line for a relocated/new team (if they can get a new arena built). The bottom line is that they’re a promising market for an NHL rebirth for reasons that go beyond income.

Either way, the list is an interesting read, even if the methodology looks at just one piece of the puzzle (albeit a big one). Feel free to discuss which markets might make the most sense for relocation or expansion (yikes) in the comments.

* – Say what you will about Atlanta, Thrashers fans blame mismanagement by the Atlanta Spirit as the primary cause for the team’s demise. One cannot help but wonder if the NHL might give the Georgia market a third try in, say, 20-30 years if a reliable owner surfaces.

(H/T to Puck Daddy.)

  1. atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 20, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    This report makes little sense, great it measures a city’s income, but does it measure the actual fanbase in each area? The popularity of the sport in each area? Or the desire for a team?

    Of the American cities I could see Houston doing okay because they have a large Canadian population from the oil companies, but even then could hockey really shoehorn itself into a market that is non-traditional and already has NBA, NFL and MLB teams?

    Las Vegas is a ridiculous idea! It’s a very transient town, people pass through there to gamble and see shows not to go to NHL games. How would ice be kept in prime condition in June if the Las Vegas team were to make it to the finals?

    People may scoff at Hamilton or Quebec City, but they have willing owners. and a rabid fanbases that would support their teams. When Quebec moved it was because of the arena and because the CDN dollar was around $0.75 USD, now our dollar is at par with your dollar and Quebec has a plan, and financial support to build a new arena.

    The NHL’s next markets of choice should be: obviously they have to choose between 1 or 2, having both would be difficult.

    1. 2nd team in Toronto
    2. Hamilton
    3. Quebec City
    4. Hartford
    5. Kansas City

    • islandersfan - Aug 20, 2011 at 7:15 PM

      I would generally agree but Seattle/Portland should prolly be #1

      They have a good population base, a history with hockey (Spokane Chiefs/Seattle Thunderbirds/Portland Winterhawks), and a high income. Only real issue facing the area is an arena to play in.

    • sincity24 - Aug 22, 2011 at 4:18 AM

      OK clearly your a biased idiot. CANADA sucks. dont be pissed off at the US for kicking your ass every year in your own sport. second of all vegas would be a great place because so many people could go to a game while there in town visiting the city. plus there are so many people from across the country and that live here now that would go to the games to see there “true ” team. the only problem is the gambling. the casinos will never stop taking bets just because someone wants a team here so the leagues have to just get over the bettering. sports betting is what makes the sports go round. and your clearly even more of an idiot to believe that they couldnt have good ice. because first of all hockey is pretty much over in june. but even if it was still going because of the cup finals its called air condition and equipment. but i guess you guys up there dont have that stuff since all you have to do is open your door to cool down your house. iv been living in las vegas for 13 years so i have alot of credibility. and was born in detroit michigan home of the greatest hockey organization ever. even though i am a died hard red wings fan i still would buy season tickets because i love the sport that much. o and have a great day aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

  2. doyousmellthat - Aug 20, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    I don’t understand why any sports league thinks Las Vegas would be a good place for a franchise.

    • sincity24 - Aug 22, 2011 at 4:19 AM

      dumb ass

  3. hanktheking - Aug 20, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    The NHL should focus on either saving their exsisting franchises in their respective cities or lose a few of the weakest markets. Many NHL owners believe they would operate more efficiently without losing a penny with 24-26 teams.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 20, 2011 at 7:06 PM

      I agree the NHL could easily contract 4 teams and move 2-3 others and come out with a much stronger league.

  4. slavebox - Aug 20, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    SEATTLE!…plz bring NHL..key arena?… -wing nut.

  5. sknut - Aug 20, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    It seems this study takes the narrow scope of money in a market, since that is more easily to quantify. Quebec makes sense as does Seattle for new or existing teams. And bad management does play a role that can’t kill a fan bases enthusiam. When a team loses the team loses the casual fan to come and spend money at their games and looks like they are doing poorly and that doesn’t necessarily reflect how the true fans feel.

  6. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 20, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    What team do you move? You need to move the team, which ever one that is, to a city that use to have a team. Well, at least you have a better chance of success.

  7. jakpsu1 - Aug 20, 2011 at 10:50 PM

    Definately think Portland, OR would be the best location for a new team.

  8. capsrockva - Aug 21, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    When I last checked this posting it had far more than 9 comments. As a Caps fan I would love to see a real division rivalry w/ either Bal/Nor/Rich. The problem w/ Bal is a lot of Caps fans drive down to DC to see the Caps. Problem with Norfolk is that our “division” rivals, their AHL affiliate plys @ Scope. The logical choice would be Hampton Coliseum for home games. Richmond has good arenas but they lost 2 or 3 teams already, so I don’t think that Richmond is a good choice. My vote would be for KC & a team in Wisconsin, ( I can’t believe the NHL hasn’t had a team there for this many years)

    • wingnut721 - Aug 25, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      team in wisconsin would never work…coming from a Wisconsinite, and a huge hockey fan, i have seen what happens when a minor league team tries to compete with the Badgers winter sports schedule, our ownership of the two minor league teams that were there in the 90’s (Monsters and Kodiaks)promised us they would stay if we sold out in the playoffs, the attendance that weekend blew the roof off of the Concrete Donut(Alliant Energy Center/Dane County Coliseum), but the ownership still packed up in the middle of the night and ended up in Knoxville, then the UHL felt sorry for us and awarded us the Kodiaks, who lasted all of one year, before bolting to Kalamazoo to become the K-Wings, factor in that Madison is a true blue college town and Milwaukee and Green Bay already have things going in the winter, where would you put it? as much as i would LOVE to see a NHL franchise in Wisconsin, the reality of it happening are slim to none

      • capsrockva - Aug 26, 2011 at 12:58 PM

        Did not know that. Thanks

      • dutch1257 - Dec 8, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        I believe a franchise in Wisconsin would work. What else does Green Bay or Milwaukee have going on in the winter? Green Bay has the Packers and Milwaukee has the Bucks, that’s it besides personal sports of hunting, skiing etc. You put an NHL franchise in Milwaukee, there is no doubt it would be more popular than the Bucks. There would be instant rivalries with Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit & Columbus. Folks from Green Bay and Madison would travel to Milwaukee to support the Wisconsin MeatHooks!

      • dutch1257 - Dec 8, 2011 at 2:38 PM

        Or a better name would be the WISCONSIN BLIZZARD!

  9. Exiled1 - Aug 21, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    Ducks move to Seattle. Panthers move to Quebec City. Islander move to Hartford. Not sure who else but I think the Hamilton team would be cool too.

  10. brucewaynewins - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    The fact that Akron and Dayton rank higher than Cincinnati shows this list was not well put together. Cincinnati would not support a team any better than Columbus does. If anyone thinks tiny towns like Akron and Dayton with there higher jobless than larger Ohio cities could fair better….think again. This shoulda been called “Lets spin the globe and wherever my finger lands is wherever the NHL belongs”

  11. dutch1257 - Dec 8, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    I would like to see franchises in Quebec, Wisconsin, Hamilton, Oakland, Hartford & Seattle.

    The league could grow to 36 teams, 9 in each conference if need be…or franchise relocation to the above sites!

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