With the NHL season in full swing, all of the expansion and relocation chatter from the offseason has died down. With the action on the ice, it’s tough for hockey fans to get excited about city council meetings, potential arena deals and ownership agreements. That is… until the news broke about the NHL’s meeting with Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta. The billionaire owner has made it clear that he wants an NHL franchise, acquired either through expansion or relocation, and the NHL, lead by commissioner Gary Bettman, are quite happy to listen to his spiel. But, just how likely is it that fans will see a 32nd franchise pop up in Houston? Bet the house on it, according to one Houston area insider.
In his latest article for the Houston Press, reporter John Royal claims, “Hockey in Houston is going to happen. It’s just a matter of how. And it’s just a matter of when.” But interestingly enough, Royal predicts the city will acquire its team through relocation, not expansion.
It would make sense for the NHL to expand and go to 32 teams. But it’s become my understanding that expansion is off the table for moment. The NHL would instead prefer to first stabilize some of its troublesome franchises, and one way the league is looking at stabilizing such franchises is through relocation to another city. A city such as Houston.
Whether Royal is basing his opinion off of inside information or just his own personal viewpoint is unclear. But regardless, his word carries authority in this market. Stay tuned hockey fans, things could get interesting if teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames can’t find some stability in the next few seasons.