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Seravalli: Expansion isn’t far away for the NHL

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Photo credit:Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
Liam Horrobin
7 months ago
The NHL has welcomed two new teams into the league over the past six years, starting with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 and, most recently, the Seattle Kraken in 2021. For all of the major leagues in North America, no one seemed interested in expanding beyond 32 teams, however, recent developments may be changing that approach.
After the sale of the Ottawa Senators, one of the least valuable teams in the NHL, the board of governors had their eyes opened to how much money these teams are now worth. Additionally, they believe a handful of cities in North America would be worthy hosts to a franchise, making the idea of further expanding the league much more palatable given the cheques they bring in.
Frank Seravalli joined us on Oilersnation Everyday and discussed the possibility of the NHL growing beyond 32 teams.
“From a pure product perspective, going to 34 and being not just the first North American pro league but the first worldwide sports league to 34 teams feels like a big jump,” said Seravalli. “Considering the dollars at stake with Vegas being a $500 million expansion fee, Seattle coming in at $650 million, and now the Ottawa Senators, who five years ago were one of the least valuable teams in the NHL, getting sold for $950 million. What does that mean for the next expansion fee? Gary Bettman said, with a big smile on his face a lot, it will be $1 billion or more.”
It is a surprising time for the NHL to discuss expansion when they have a franchise like the Arizona Coyotes that is currently playing out of an NCAA arena. Last season, the Coyotes averaged an attendance of 4,600 in their 5,000-seat arena, which almost every other team in the NHL would sell out 20 times over. Conversations about moving the Yotes away from the Phoenix area sparked even more discussion over the summer after the residents of Tempe denied their arena deal. 
Moving away from Arizona doesn’t necessarily mean the end of hockey in the desert, either. The NHL has a history of moving teams out of a city and moving them back years later. The Minnesota North Stars are an example of that leaving the state of hockey in 1993 to move back in 2000 as the Wild. The Winnipeg Jets are another success story of returning to their original home, too. 
“The prevailing thought was that they needed to figure out what to do with the Arizona Coyotes before expanding. However, Gary Bettman said at the Board of Governors meeting that the two are unrelated. He also put somewhat of a timeline on the Coyotes’ arena decision, ” Let’s see where they are in February.” The timeline is significant and they can’t return to the Mullet Arena for a third season.
The biggest question surrounding all of this is where do they go? The options are plentiful for the NHL. Houston is the number one city everyone will throw out there after being so heavily connected to the relocation of the Coyotes. Additionally, Salt Lake City, Quebec City, and Atlanta were other names Frank mentioned on that show. Of course, Quebec City and Atlanta have had NHL teams before and were unable to keep them, but perhaps this is an example of the NHL wanting to give cities another chance to succeed.
“From a team actually skating onto the ice, we are probably four or five years away. I wouldn’t be shocked if there is a board of governors meeting in two years and they’re discussing giving a team to a new city. 

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