NHL expansion: Kansas City not likely to be in mix for new franchise

Sprint Center in Kansas City was once a desired destination for NHL. (USATSI)
Sprint Center in Kansas City was once a desired destination for NHL. (USATSI)

Now that the NHL's application process for markets and ownership groups interested in purchasing an expansion franchise, the picture for who is in and who is out should become pretty clear in the coming weeks. One market that appears unlikely to have anyone step up and apply on its behalf is the oft-rumored expansion/relocation candidate of Kansas City.

Despite the presence of an NHL-caliber arena in the form of the Sprint Center, there is no known ownership group interested in pursuing expansion according to the Kansas City Star.

The NHL believes it can get $500 million or more in expansion fees, which is the biggest reason they’re exploring the possibility of expansion now. It's a big fee, one that is bound to scare prospective ownership groups away, allowing more serious candidates to distinguish themselves. Unfortunately for hockey fans in KC, it doesn't look good.

Those in the pro sports community in the Kansas City area have little indication to believe anything will happen on the NHL-to-Kansas City front per the Star including the owners of the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks and Sporting KC of MLS:

Lamar Hunt Jr., who owns the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks, a minor-league hockey team that plays in Independence, called the NHL’s $500 million price tag for an expansion franchise “a ridiculously big fee,” and said that he is not aware of anyone in Kansas City who will make a push for a team.

“No, it’s not on my radar,” he said. “It’s not on this team’s radar, and it’s not on my radar.”

Cliff Illig, a billionaire and part of the ownership group of Sporting Kansas City, is also not involved with a bid for Kansas City, and does not know of anyone who is.

“You could say that,” he said. “That’s certainly the truth.”

AEG, the company that built and owns Sprint Center, also is partnered in the new arena for Las Vegas, currently under construction, that is hopeful of attracting an NHL team. It is believed the league will seriously explore that market. 

The Sprint Center was one of the great bargaining chips for a while as teams threatened their local governments with moving. The Pittsburgh Penguins seemed awfully close to moving to Kansas City, which remains hard to believe in hindsight. It was also a potential landing spot for the Atlanta Thrashers at one point and looked like a potential safety net for the Arizona Coyotes before their current ownership group stepped in.

Now, when it comes to the NHL, and to the great chagrin of a small, but passionate collective of hockey fans in the area, it’s looking as though it is a market that won’t be fitting into the NHL’s current plans.

The league’s first foray in the market came between 1974 and 1976 when the Kansas City Scouts graced the NHL ice. They ended up moving to Denver and were rebranded as the Colorado Rockies. That team then moved to New Jersey and became the Devils. A lot of time has passed, and things have changed in KC, but if there’s no one out there willing to put up the money, it's a nonstarter.

There remains a large list of other potential landing spots for the NHL if they even decide to expand at all. There’s probably only a handful, at most, that are serious options at this point. Among them, the aforementioned Las Vegas arena, Quebec City, Seattle and there’s even going to be a push for a second team in Toronto. Others could rise to the surface, but it appears that Kansas City will not be one of them.

CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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