What the Seattle NHL expansion might mean for Houston
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:
- 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.
- 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.