Examining potential NHL expansion partners for Seattle

The rumors that the NHL is prepared to announce expansion to Seattle by no later than June has created a lot of excitement in Seattle. But these rumors have also led to questions regarding the NHL’s current divisional alignment; there are 14 teams in the West and 16 in the East. It would be really easy for the league to balance out the conferences by expanding to two cities in the western half of the United States.

If the NHL does announce expansion to Seattle, that would give the league 15 teams in the West — 31 teams overall. There is very little chance that the NHL is willing to go with 31 teams during a season, because of the scheduling issues that would create, and that means that there probably will be two expansion franchises awarded in June.

There are several cities that would be interesting expansion targets, outside of Seattle, for the NHL. These cities offer a  lot of benefits for the league and could help increase its financial health.

Portland, Ore.

The Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) and Winterhawks (WHL)

Portland is an easy city to sleep on when it comes to NHL expansion. After all, the city is usually overshadowed by its larger neighbor to the north, and that includes the discussion around the NHL. But that doesn’t mean that Portland wouldn’t be an excellent expansion partner for Seattle.

The biggest advantage that Portland has is an already built, NHL ready arena, in the Moda Center.  Formerly known as the Rose Garden, the Moda Center is currently the home of the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) and the Portland Winterhawks (Western Hockey League) — the Winterhawks split time between the Center and the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. When the Moda Center is in its hockey configuration, it sits around 17,544 people.

Another advantage that Portland has is that Trail Blazer owner Paul Allen is rumored to be interested in acquiring a NHL franchise. Allen has played a major role in the revival of the two franchises that he owns — the Blazers and the Seahawks — and getting two new stadiums/arenas built — and leading to highly competitive teams…including a Super Bowl championship.

Quebec City, Quebec

The under construction Quebec Arena

Quebec City lost the Nordiques after the 1995 season, and the city has been trying to get a team back since shortly after the team left. This is the quest has led to the city approving the construction of a new arena, without the guarantee of a team. According to Wikipedia, this new arena is going to sit 18,482 people for hockey.

This arena is already under construction near downtown Quebec City.

Quebec City also has an ownership group that is negotiating with the league to bring the Noriques back to life. This ownership group is led by Canadian media company, Quebecor. Due to the fact that Quebecor is a highly successful company, it is pretty easy to assume that the ownership group has rather deep pockets.

And it’s been rumored that league wants owners with deep pockets…a whale if you want to borrow Sacramento’s term for it; and both cities offer it.

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