The NHL’s decision to award Les Vegas with an expansion franchise ushered in a new era for the league and confirmed a couple important facts for hockey fans. First, the decision signaled the NHL is willing to expand into nontraditional markets. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the move to add a 31st team indicates that more expansion teams are on the way.
Where might that 32nd (or 33rd, or 34th) team call home? There’s a decent list of rumored candidates, but a new statement from deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggests one unexpected location isn’t off the radar quite yet.
Below you’ll find Daly’s comments which he gave via email to ESPN.
“Kansas City has never been entirely ‘off our radar screen. We have talked to potentially interested stakeholders in the past, and it’s certainly a market that in the right circumstances (including a desire by our board to entertain further expansion) our league would fairly evaluate and consider.”
Kansas City may not seem like the most obvious option for expansion behind other candidates – such as Quebec – but it has a pretty decent hockey following. NHL exhibition games have already drawn loud crowds to the Sprint Arena in KC and more are on the way. The St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild will play in a special preseason game on September 28th in KC which is sure to draw a good crowd.
Though Daly noted KC isn’t off the table, he did comment that the city does have a couple issues they need to address before anything would move forward.
“In evaluating potential locations for NHL teams, we typically look at three things: One, whether the market has or is building a suitable arena facility; two, the demographics of the market and whether they suggest an ability to support an NHL franchise; and, three, whether there is qualified and interested ownership to own and operate the franchise.
While the Sprint Center certainly checks off the first of those boxes, the other two issues remain a work in progress.”
In other words, the jury is still out on whether Kansas City can realistically support an NHL team. The city has an arena which is already a big part of the equation, but would it be a long-term success?