Atlanta Thrashers: 10 Possible Cities for Relocation
In this piece, I will look into 10 cities that could benefit from the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Currently, the Thrashers are financially struggling and the owners are looking to sell to local buyers to keep the team in Atlanta. As of now though, there are no potential suitors and no deal has been presented.
While those cities will be used in this article, I have tried to go outside the box with other destinations, some a little more exotic and interesting.
I have not done extensive research to prove why these destinations would be economically and logistically feasible (as that would take months and months of research to do properly), but merely am suggesting locations which for other reasons (location, fanbase, size, etc.) could possibly support an NHL franchise successfully.
This is intended to be in a more light-hearted, what-if scenario, and I urge anyone to comment on what cities you would like to see with an NHL team as well.
Destination 1: Winnipeg
Right now, Winnipeg is considered the front runner to get an NHL franchise, should Atlanta move.
Winnipeg once was the home of the Jets, a great franchise before it moved at the end of the 1995-1996 season. The Jets could just not keep up with a quickly expanding NHL, due to their small market and old arena.
The team moved to Phoenix and the Jets were no more, but now with the struggles of Atlanta, Winnipeg is looking to bring the Jets back.
With the Canadien dollar's worth now equal to the U.S. dollar and a strict salary cap in place, Winnipeg can now realistically compete with any other hockey market.
Their potential arena? The MTS Centre, which is currently home to the AHL team the Manitoba Moose. The capacity sits at just over 15,000, which would make it the smallest arena in the NHL by far.
That doesn't seem to be an issue with the NHL however; they are more concerned with the market size and wealth.
While Winnipeg isn't exactly an economic powerhouse when it comes to top businesses, it still remains one of the top cities in the mix should Atlanta move.
Whether it is Atlanta or Phoenix, this approaching season or the next, look for a team to call Winnipeg a home again soon.
Destination 2: Quebec City
Quebec City was home to another storied franchise previously, the Quebec Nordiques. Much like the Jets, they were forced to move due to similar financial issues and an aging building.
Now that the economy has turned around and other teams are struggling, Quebec is looking to bring back an NHL team.
There's only one small problem. No building.
Right now, Quebec is without an NHL ready arena, which hurts its chances of a team moving there.
The mayor however is looking to put into a motion a plan that would involve the funding of a new NHL arena that coincides with their bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Should that happen, Quebec would be a very attractive market for a struggling NHL team, specifically the Atlanta Thrashers.
So while there is still much up in the air when it comes to Quebec, if the wheels are all put into motion at the right time, you could see the Nordiques hit the ice again.
Destination 3: Seattle
Seattle Surge Logo
Seattle wouldn't come to mind for the majority of people when the question of relocation comes up.
But this is something that I have always wondered why it would never work. Sure a lot of work would need to be done before Seattle could land a team, but the potential is great.
Seattle has the 15th largest metropolitan area in the United States, so it definitely has the size to support an NHL team. Additionally, with their NBA team, the Seattle Supersonics gone, Seattle is only home to the Seahawks (NFL) and Mariners (MLB).
There is room for an NHL franchise to grow. The climate is one that would be friendly to hockey and while yes, hockey is played indoors, hockey is always associated with colder weather.
Then there is the possible rivalry between a Seattle team and the Vancouver Canucks.
The two cities are about 110 miles from each other, outside of the territorial zone established by the NHL, but close enough to ignite a strong tension between the two teams.
The city is also lacking an NHL-ready arena, much like Quebec, but if Quebec can build one, why can't Seattle?
I created (for fun) a name and logo for a Seattle hockey team, The Seattle Surge, taking into account their weather and location along the Pacific Ocean. Their colors would also resemble the Seahawks.
While it is extremely unlikely, if not impossible, that an NHL team would ever move to Seattle, I always thought that if an arena was built and the city invested itself into the team, it could work out very well.
Destination 4: Hamilton
Hamilton Rebels Logo
Hamilton's pursuit of an NHL franchise dates all the way back to 1985, when the city built the Copps Coliseum and hosted the 1987 Canada Cup.
Hamilton has always felt slighted by the NHL and is constantly asking "why?".
A few years back, billionaire Jim Balsillie collected over 12,000 down payments for season tickets for a hockey team in Hamilton; part of his plan to move the Nashville Predators to Hamilton.
The problem was he tried doing this without the NHL's consent, which the NHL did not care too much for.
The move was blocked and Hamilton's hopes were dashed once more. Then, with the recent struggles in Phoenix with the Coyotes. Balsillie attempted one more time to bring a franchise to Hamilton, by buying the team from its owner and saving it from bankruptcy.
The NHL, already on sour terms with Balsillie, put in their own bid for the team and went to court. The NHL eventually won in court and saved the Coyotes from bankruptcy, once again diminishing any chance of Hamilton getting a team.
Why not Hamilton? There's an arena. The population is big enough. The economy is doing well.
The NHL argues that the building needs upwards of $200 million in renovations before it can be NHL-ready.
Additionally, the location may be too close to Toronto, one of the most popular teams in the NHL. Could a team in Hamilton compete against the Maple Leafs? It would be an uphill battle, that much is certain.
I created a possible logo and team for this move as well. I used the popular Maple Leaf and the large H for Hamilton. The Rebels is to signify it's long battle to get an NHL team, in addition to Hamilton's war history, specifically in the War of 1812.
While Hamilton will always remain an option, right now it seems the least likely of the Canadien cities to get an NHL team.
Destination 5: Hartford
Will the Brass Bonanza play once more?
The Hartford Whalers left Hartford after a rollercoaster ride of negotiations. The owner and the Connecticut Governor both went back and forth to try and establish a deal to fund a new arena for the team, but it never was realized.
The owner announced the team would move even before they had a deal in place with another city. That is the first and only time such an announcement was ever made.
Hartford would be hard pressed to land an NHL team again.
With the Boston Bruins taking over much of the New England market, there isn't much room for another team in the area.
Hartford is a small city and would be one of the smallest markets in the NHL, not to mention the team would have to compete with Boston for a fanbase.
There also is no arena in the city ready for an NHL team.
There are many hurdles to hop before Hartford can be home to an NHL team again, but wouldn't it be great to see the Whale again?
Any fans of Kevin Smith and the movie Mallrats would know that the Hartford Whalers, "The Whale", are a classic and loved franchise.
Destination 6: San Antonio
San Antonio Arsenal Logo
Could the NHL head to the Lone Star State?
Texas is home to 3 of the 10 largest cities in the United States, including Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
It would seem that a large city such as San Antonio could be just the right place to support an NHL franchise.
San Antonio is currently only home to an NBA franchise in the Spurs. San Antonio is a large city with a lot of love to give, and only one team to give it to.
The economy is great, the population is young and the area is growing. The NHL should seriously consider looking into the city as a possible destination.
Sure San Antonio doesn't exactly scream hockey, but did Dallas? And now Dallas is a great franchise with a strong fanbase and one of those trophies... The Stanley Cup.
I created a logo and name for this team as well. The San Antonio Arsenal, paying tribute to the rich history with the Alamo.
I for one would love to see a franchise locate itself here. There is no arena ready for the NHL, unless of course they were to share with the Spurs. This is more than possible, as many current NHL teams share their arenas with an NBA franchise.
So as more teams like the Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes and Atlanta Thrashers struggle in their markets, look to San Antonio as a diamond in the rough.
Destination 7: Portland
Portland Nighthawks Logo
Portland, Oregon would be another Northwest location that can support an NHL franchise.
A few years back when the Pittsburgh Penguins were facing potential relocation with the need for a new NHL arena, Portland was listed as a potential suitor.
Portland is another great city where the economy, the size and the location are all ideal. There aren't any competing markets close enough to hurt a team either.
Portland, like San Antonio, is home to only one professional franchise, with the Trail Blazers in the NBA. If a new arena was not viable, then the hockey team could share the arena with the Trail Blazers.
Portland is a fairly big city, 29th in the United States to be exact. The market size would most likely be in line with the Pittsburgh market.
So how about Portland? It doesn't seem all that bad of a choice. It is a beautiful city, nicknamed "The City of Roses" and is known for its greenery.
I created a name and logo for this team as well. The Portland Nighthawks, which plays off of a local species of bird, the Nighthawk.
While the bird isn't exactly fierce, last time I checked a penguin doesn't scream intimidation either.
Destination 8: Las Vegas
Las Vegas Demons Logo
Las Vegas is an interesting city. It currently is home to no professional sports team.
There's good reason for that though. Las Vegas has always been about one thing, first and foremost: gambling.
Since all the of the professional sports refuse to be associated with gambling and forbid gambling in their sport, it makes sense why no team has ever moved there.
But with the internet and the explosion of gambling everywhere, not just in Las Vegas, that becomes less and less important.
Another downfall of Vegas is that it has always been more of a tourist town, making it hard for any team to build a solid fanbase around a city that lacks a large local population.
Recently though, Vegas is starting to grow in local population and becoming more family oriented.
There is no arena there either, but with so many gambling meccas nearby, I'm sure it wouldn't be hard pressed to find funding.
But still, it is Las Vegas. It is in the middle of the desert. It seems like a far out scenario that an NHL team would ever move to Vegas, but remarkably Vegas was for one brief moment listed as a potential suitor for the Pittsburgh Penguins a few years back.
Negotiations with the Mayor of Las Vegas and the Penguins were going well even, and the city had cleared land for a new arena to be built, but the talks never went further than that.
The arena was not built and would not be built until a deal was in place for a team to arrive, but it is encouraging that the city was willing to build an arena.
I myself created a logo and team for Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Demons, to play off of the heat and the gambling in the city.
So would the NHL ever consider Las Vegas as a city for one of its franchises? It's not out of the question, but it certainly is not on the short list of cities either.
Destination 9: Toronto
Toronto is already home to a tradition-rich franchise, the Maple Leafs. The Leafs are the NHL's richest team, with a revenue of $160 million this year.
The Leafs have diehard, dedicated fans that will pay $100 a ticket to support a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004.
Their success is largely due to the sheer size of their market, with 5.7 million people. The team represents 50 percent of the Ontario economy and 15 percent of the entire Canadian economy.
In the TSN article "Why Not Canada?", research showed that despite the Leafs popularity and success, there is still a large appetite for hockey in the area.
"Global managing partner Don Mayo stated "There's about 800,000 people in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) right now that have NHL hockey as a passion that haven't been able to attend a hockey game in the past two years."
With that number of people unable to attend games, it makes sense that another team could thrive in the same market as the Maple Leafs.
Afterall, New York City and Los Angeles both support multiple teams within the same sport because of their size and success.
There are only two hurdles that could stop another NHL team from setting down in Toronto.
First, would be the opposition of the Maple Leafs themselves. Surely they wouldn't be happy with another competing team in their market, but in the end, it would be the NHL's decision.
Second, is the cost to put a team in the area. It would cost a great deal of money for another franchise to locate themselves within Toronto.
While there are probably different options out there, some definitely more ideal, Toronto should not be overlooked to become the first Canadian city in the NHL with two teams.
Destination 10: Kansas City
Sprint Center in Kansas City
Kansas City is another option for the Atlanta Thrashers if worse comes to worse.
The city has a brand new, $276 million arena the Sprint Center. The city built the arena in hopes to lure an NHL franchise to the city.
They almost succeeded a few years ago when the Penguins considered relocation, but the plans fell through and the Penguins remained in Pittsburgh.
Currently the arena is unoccupied for the majority of the year by a single team, despite it being suitable for an NHL or NBA team easily.
Kansas City, unlike most of the other cities on the list, has an NHL-ready arena. The arena is beautiful on top of that. What it lacks however, is what the other cities possess.
Kansas City has a large metropolitan area, but the location that it is in is very close to other NHL cities. The two teams, the St. Louis Blues and the Nashville Predators are both close to Kansas City.
Nashville itself was considering relocation a few years back and St. Louis has seen its own struggles. The area does not seem an economically viable location for an NHL franchise.
The one thing that may pull Kansas City into discussions for relocation, besides its size and new arena, is there isn't much competition. The only other professional teams in the area are the Chiefs (NFL) and the Royals (MLB).
While there is a brand new arena waiting to be home to a team, I would be willing to bet that an NBA franchise would move there before an NHL franchise.
Conclusion: The Sun Is Setting Soon
The NHL has always been under the belief that if a team were to move, they would look to cities that have previously held an NHL team. That would make the best possible cities for the Thrashers to move to be Winnipeg and Quebec.
You do have to admit though, it would be nice to see a few new fresh face cities in the NHL.
Sure some of these cities may be long shots and pipe dreams, but hey, in a time with so much uncertainty and serious issues being discussed, it sometimes pays to have fun.
If I had to make a final call, I would bet on the Thrashers staying in Atlanta for another year just like Phoenix.
But make no mistake, the sun is setting on the Thrashers future in Phillips Arena.
The only reason for this is that major decisions would need to be made in such a short period of time to have an NHL team ready to play in Winnipeg for next season.
So look for the Thrashers and Coyotes to both be in the NHL for at least one more season, but I wouldn't look further into the future than that for either team.