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THN.com Blog: Winnipeg should be at top of new-team list

Memories of Teemu Selanne and the Jets still resonate with many hockey fans. (Photo by Tony Biegun/Getty Images)

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Memories of Teemu Selanne and the Jets still resonate with many hockey fans. (Photo by Tony Biegun/Getty Images)

Toronto went gaga last week over a tenuous story musing about the possibility of a second NHL franchise in the self-ordained center of the hockey universe.

While that won’t be happening anytime soon, someday the league will venture into new markets, likely via relocation before expansion.

Here’s my top five, in order of what makes sense to me, for new (or revisited) locales.

(Note: I’m not a proponent of European expansion, so the absences of London, Stockholm and Prague are not oversights.)

1. Winnipeg
Market size: Eighth in Canada
Arena: MTS Centre (capacity – 15,015 for hockey)
Recent hockey history: NHL’s Jets left for Phoenix in 1996; currently home to American League’s Manitoba Moose
Noteworthy: MTS Centre built in 2004, partially with the hope of attracting an NHL tenant. Commissioner Gary Bettman has gone on record as saying Winnipeg would be considered in future NHL expansions.

2. Houston
Market size: 10th in U.S.
Arena: Toyota Center (capacity – 17,800 for hockey)
Recent hockey history: Home to the AHL’s Aeros
Noteworthy: Has a new arena, a large market, a hockey history and a natural cross-state rival in Dallas.

3. Quebec City

Market size: Seventh in Canada
Arena: Le Colisee (capacity – 15,399)
Recent hockey history: NHL’s Nordiques left for Colorado in 1995; home to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec League and the Quebec Radio X of the low minor league LNAH.
Noteworthy: Quebec City is Canada’s largest market without an NHL team. It would also likely need a new facility to replace the outdated Colisee.

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4. Toronto
Market size: First in Canada
Arena: Air Canada Centre (capacity – 18,819 for hockey)
Recent hockey history: Home to the NHL’s Maple Leafs, the AHL’s Marlies and three Ontario League teams in the surrounding area
Noteworthy: Numerous hurdles to clear (see last week’s blog), but the city likely could support a second big-league franchise.

5. Seattle

Market size: 14th in U.S.
Arena: Key Arena (capacity – 15,177 for hockey)
Recent hockey history: Home to the Western League’s Thunderbirds – until end of December.
Noteworthy: Border town would have strong rivalry with Vancouver; arena is dated.

Honorable mentions to: Cleveland (17th in market size, plus I’m sentimental about the Barons); Hamilton (don’t think it’s big league, but hey, I could be wrong); Kansas City and Las Vegas (because they seem to be the league’s favored locales…for now).

Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every Friday.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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