The NHL has expanded twice in the past few years, adding the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 and the Seattle Kraken in 2021. It has only been a few years for Vegas and only two years for Seattle, but the early returns have been great on both ends.
With such great success, for the league and Ontario sports betting, it is only natural for other markets without NHL teams to express interest, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed at the March General Manager’s meeting that that was indeed the case, as a few markets and potential owners had reached out with interest in getting an NHL team.
Bettman also confirmed that the NHL was not in an expansion mode, so it seems to be a moot point. But often where there is smoke, there's fire, and it’s only natural to wonder about potential locations if the NHL does indeed decide to expand.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
The NHL’s expansion history is littered with successes -- with the occasional failure mixed in -- but to go from a six-team league in 1967 to the current 32-team league, they make a lot of correct decisions and the league is in a relatively healthy place.
Expansion has come in stages in the NHL. There was the doubling of the league in 1967 from six to 12 teams, the 1979 WHA absorption when they added four teams, the two-year stretch from 1992-93 where four teams were added and the 1998-2000 stretch where they also added four teams.
With the NHL now tied with the NFL for the league with the most teams, it does seem unlikely that they would lead the charge and become the first league to go beyond that number, but crazier things have happened.
If they do decide to expand, there are several areas interested in bringing in a team, with Houston, Atlanta and Quebec City all confirmed as having interest. Perhaps the most intriguing potential location is in Canada, with the Toronto area’s ability to add another team creating an interesting dynamic along with Quebec’s desire to bring in a team of their own.
With this in mind, OntarioBets.com created hypothetical odds of where the next NHL franchise could be. You won't find these on Ontario sports betting apps, but when it comes to NHL movement or expansion, we think it's a matter if when, not if. To be clear, the odds below are based on both chances for an expansion team, or current team location.
Odds Of Next NHL Franchise (Expansion or Relocation)
Could Quebec 2.0 Work For All?
Quebec had an NHL franchise from 1979 to 1995 but the small market combined with a struggling Canadian dollar made the league move the Nordiques to Denver, Colorado for the 1995-96 season. The issues that caused the team to leave aren’t as glaring anymore, with the population of the area above 550,000 and an NHL-ready rink that hosts the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL dying to bring in an NHL squad.
The Canadian Dollar isn’t at its best and that remains an issue, but it is not at the point it was in the 1990’s where most of the Canadian teams were struggling to stay afloat. If the NHL were to expand, Ontariobets.com gives the market a 22.5% chance of getting the next team and gives it hypothetical odds of +350.
Another Canadian option is the Toronto area, most likely in Hamilton. Hamilton has a population around 800,000, which is more than enough people to support a second team in the way that New York does with the Rangers and Islanders and that Chicago and Los Angeles do in other leagues.
While there would certainly be demand among fans and the financial stability of the team would be fine, the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t want to see some of their fanbase change allegiances and nor do the Buffalo Sabres, who reside less than 70 miles south of the Hamilton area. The pushback from those two franchises leaves Hamilton as a longshot to get the next team, with hypothetical odds of +1595.
There is definitely an appetite for a team in both markets, but both come with roadblocks as well, including Bettman’s stance that expansion isn’t currently on the radar.
Several other areas will have a say, particularly Houston, which logically seems to be the next location for a team with its market size and arena readiness, hence their position as the favorite on the list at +300.
Will Canada have an eighth team in the coming years? Unlikely, but the path is there for something to happen should the NHL change their tune.
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