The topic of relocation and/or expansion has been on the minds of hockey fans for some time now and it just won't go away.
When the NHL looked at realignment thanks to the Thrashers' move to Winnipeg, it seemed apparent two more teams would fit nicely in a new-look league. The proposed format would have left two conferences with eight teams, two with seven. It would have created an imbalanced league of sorts so from that standpoint, two additional teams makes sense.
Then you have the rise of two or three potential NHL markets further adding to speculation. Quebec City is in the process of building a new arena that doesn't have a tenant; they have been discussing a new arena in the greater Toronto area; and Seattle seems like it's about to begin building a new arena if the sale of the NBA's Sacramento Kings goes through and they become the Seattle SuperSonics again. Prospective Sonics owner Chris Hansen has said how it would be his desire to have an NHL team in the arena to help cover costs.
While the league has said it has no intentions of expanding, the rumors just won't go away. After all, the league has said it wouldn't do a lot of things in the past only to do them a short while later. Bombastic player agent Allan Walsh maintains you can ignore the claims from the league and expect two new additions.
For people wondering about NHL expansion, its happening (pure and simple). It's been on the league agenda the moment the lockout ended.— Allan Walsh (@walsha) January 27, 2013
I'm with Walsh here in that it seems likely to happen; the balance will be needed. That's why I would expect Seattle would probably get one of the two spots and Quebec City the other. There are possible owners in each location already.
The question that immediately pops up in conversations like this: Why not relocation? Certainly there are a few teams that would be better of being somewhere else. Well, perhaps, but there aren't any real candidates right now, assuming the Phoenix sale finally goes through. Teams don't just get moved by the league when they have owners; those things tend to happen when the franchise goes up for sale.
Are there worries that come with expanding again? Of course. Many will complain about thinning out the talent even more and thus watering down the game or that there are already enough teams that aren't working. But this would be a bit different than the last round of expansion.
First, there is more hockey talent than ever coming into the game, the number of registered players is going up everywhere it seems but Canada. As to the second point, this time it would seem the expansion would be going into a potentially very strong market in Quebec City and either in another very strong market in the Toronto area or a market with some potential in Seattle.
If expansion does come to fruition, let's just hope the league does its due diligence in making sure it's introducing franchises for the success of the league and those individual cities.
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