PUCK YES?

What the Seattle NHL expansion might mean for Houston

Hockey in Houston? Don't laugh; it could happen. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Seattle will be the National Hockey League's 32nd team, and will begin play in 2020-21. But there is a lot of buzz that Houston might get a relocated franchise, presumably from the Pacific Division, to balance out the West. As of now, the Pacific Division would have nine teams, the Central seven. Pretty simple math. So the NHL might do some Game of Thrones like moving and change allegiances and rivalries. (Stick with me, this will make sense at the end).

There have been two teams mentioned as possibilities:

  1. The Calgary Flames. I hate this. Teams should never be taken out of Canada. In fact, there should be more. Canada is hockey heaven, and Calgary is a fantastic city. The problem is they play in a dilapidated stadium, and the city has refused to put any money in a new barn. It's exacerbated by the fact the rival Edmonton has one of the best new palaces in all of hockey. The hope here is a move to Houston is just a threat, and that the city eventually comes up with something. However, they just voted down an Olympic bid, so a new stadium might not be in the cards. It would ruin one of the great rivalries - the battle of Alberta - but from a competitive standpoint, this is a pretty damned interesting team. Maybe it's my inner Canadian speaking, but I would be disappointed if this were to become the Houston team. On the flip side, the oil industry brings a lot of Calgary natives to the city, so there would already be at least some fan base in place. (I am about to visit Saskatchewan next week, with a stop on the way through the greatest hockey city in the world, Toronto, and a trip back through Calgary on the way home). I love Calgary and want to see the Flames thrive there.
  2. The Arizona Coyotes. This one seems more likely. They have ownership issues. Stadium issues. It is a shame, because when the team was actually in Phoenix and not Glendale, the attendance was solid. This should be a much better market, and in a perfect world they would sort out the ownership problems and get back to Phoenix. It has already been reported that they are going to move to the Central, but if Calgary was the team to move to Houston, that's an easy flop because it does not have to happen for two years.

Would it work in Houston?

I am biased, but I believe it would. There are a lot of transplants here. That does not mean Blackhawks fans are suddenly going to become Houston Fill in the Blanks fans, but they will go to games.

A Houston team in a Central Division would have a natural rivalry with Dallas, and would join Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, Nashville, Winnipeg and Colorado in a very well designed Central Division. The Coyotes have some young talent, will likely have another high pick this season and could be fun by the time it happens. (Yes, I know they are playing well now, but hard to believe they can sustain it).

And if they are good...well we know Houston is a front-running town. Casual fans would get behind it. Remember how packed Toyota Center was for the Aeros playoffs?

Ideally, a team like Carolina or Florida would be the one to move, but there is no easy way to realign that group into a Central that makes sense. Regardless, Seattle getting a team is not bad news for Houston. There is a lot of smoke out there, so maybe there is some fire. A Song of Ice and Fire in Houston? (See, I told you it would make sense at the end).

It could happen.

Booker T brings hall of fame swagger to ESPN 97.5 FM. Photo via WWE.com

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

WWE superstar and master of the devastating Spinerooniemaneuver Booker T is the newest member of the Gow Media family, hosting the Hall of Fame show Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights on ESPN 97.5 FM.

The show, with co-host Brad Gilmore, airs live from 9-11 pm. While the main focus of the show will be WWE happenings, mixed martial arts, and boxing, Booker T isn't exactly shy about giving his opinion on politics, sports, and whatever else.

The show's title is a natural. Booker T was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a solo performer in 2013, and next month will be inducted again as part of the Harlem Heat tag-team with his brother Stevie Ray. For the record, Booker T (Robert Booker Tio Huffman) and Stevie Ray (Lash Huffman) are real-life brothers, but they weren't raised, nor ever lived in Harlem. They're from the South Park section of Houston.

ESPN 97.5 program director AJ Hoffman says, "Booker T and Brad bring an energy and excitement to the table. They want to be here as much as we want to have them. We think the show will bring new ears to 97.5, and they'll be a perfect fit in our station's brash culture."

Between breaks of his show, I cornered Booker T and hit him with 10 Questions.

CultureMap: Which is more frightening, fighting Triple H in a WWE ring, or battling him on TV's The Weakest Link?

Booker T: Oh, The Weakest Link for sure. Wrestling is easy. But a TV game show like The Weakest Link is a pressure situation. You've got to be quick on your toes. You might say something you wish you didn't say, like what happened to me. It was nervous time, sweaty palms, butterflies, the whole thing.

CM: Are you serious about running for mayor of Houston?

BT: Absolutely! I'm very serious. My ultimate goal is to be the mayor of Houston. It might be too late for me to get in the 2019 race, but a mayor's term is only four years. It looks like 2023 will be my time.

CM: What is the worst injury you've suffered as a sports-entertainment performer?

BT: Several years ago, I slipped a disc in my back in Australia. I was working a match, nothing out of the ordinary, but when I woke up the next morning I couldn't move. I was out for two months and had to take two epidurals.

CM: What is your relationship with WWE now?

BT: I still work for WWE. I'm currently an analyst on pay-per-view shows and ambassador for the company. My contract runs through 2029.

CM: You run an independent wrestling promotion called Reality of Wrestling in the Houston area. Most of your performers are young men and women new to the business. Do they have the same fire and intensity that you had coming up?

BT: We try to instill that. Not everybody is going to be like me when I was entering the business. In Reality of Wrestling, we have a lot of ambitious guys who want to get to the next level. We push them as hard as we can. If they don't have fire in them, they don't last very long. I'm extremely tough on them.

I don't accept any excuses. I didn't accept any excuses from myself. I was a single dad when I started in the business. I was working six days a week. I had a beat-up car. I never asked anyone for anything. I worked my butt off to get where I am today.

CM: You grew up very poor, and you struggled as a young man. Your life is very different now. Are you enjoying success?

BT: It's a funny thing. I enjoyed life when I didn't have a whole lot. You don't miss what you never had. Life is the same for me, I'm just able to pay my bills now. I've never wanted to be flamboyant or front everything I have. I have two beautiful kids, a boy and girl twins, a beautiful wife (former wrestler Sharmell), and a nice home. I was happy growing up poor, and I'm happy now. I'm blessed to have this life.

CM: Your most famous move is the Spineroonie. In the middle of a match, you would bust a break dancing move. Tell me the first time you did that in a ring.

BT: I did it during my very first match. I used to do it in practice, just screwing around. I was a break dancer back in the day. It was very natural for me. So I did it during my first real match. It changed the whole momentum of the match.

I knew it was something that would stick with me forever. It's actually easy to do in a ring. Under the mat, there's a pretty hard piece of foam, and there are 2-by-4's under that. It's pretty sturdy and it gives me good balance, so I'm not going to break any skin.

CM: Name the wrestlers who you most admired growing up. Did you get to compete against them?

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about Booker T's favorite wrestlers growing up.

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