NHL Lockout Rumors: Viable Canadian Cities for NHL Expansion

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2012

Quebec City fans have wanted a new team since the Nordiques left in 1995.
Quebec City fans have wanted a new team since the Nordiques left in 1995.Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

It may seem like NHL expansion is the last thing on anybody's mind right now.

Especially for Gary Bettman, who seems intent on hammering away at the NHLPA in the current labor lockout.

The NHL commissioner has taken on a demanding tone with the players since negotiations began during the summer, and he has shown no signs of softening.

However, even Bettman knows that a lockout will not go on forever. The NHL has had plenty of experience in these labor difficulties, and they have gotten solved (eventually) and players have returned to the ice.

When that day comes, the next topic up for discussion may be additional expansion of the league with two more teams on the Canadian side of the border.

That nugget was tweeted by The Hockey News columnist Adam Proteau.

An NHL agent predicts that whenever a new CBA is signed, Gary Bettman will try salvaging his rep by announcing 2 expansion teams for Canada.

— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) September 25, 2012

While expansion would seem to be a strange idea considering the NHL's current labor situation, Proteau contends that it might help improve Bettman's current and long-term status in Canada.

Many Canadians regard Bettman as a hockey outsider since he cut his teeth working for David Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (source: New York Times).

Bettman has been commissioner of the NHL since 1993, but he has done little to win over hockey fans in general and Canadian fans in particular.

A study done by the Conference Board of Canada earlier this year said the country could support two more teams (source: HuffingtonPost.ca). If the NHL added two more Canadian teams, the league would have nine Canadian franchises.

The two most frequently mentioned cities for Canadian expansion franchises are Quebec City and Hamilton.

Quebec City, of course, was home to the Quebec Nordiques until 1995, when the franchise moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche.

The Nordiques started off in the World Hockey Association in 1972 and they were absorbed by the NHL when that league folded in 1979-80. The Nordiques had an intense provincial rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens. They also had memorable battles with the Boston Bruins, the Hartford Whalers (Carolina Hurricanes) and the Buffalo Sabres.

The Nordiques left Quebec City because their home arena, Le Colisee, was not deemed NHL worthy. The city has been hungry to get another NHL franchise and a new arena in Quebec City is scheduled to be completed in 2015 (source: Toronto Sun).

Hamilton has long been mentioned in rumors when the subject of franchise relocation or expansion comes up. The biggest drawback is that it is only 41 miles from Toronto and would likely have to pay the Maple Leafs a huge amount of money for encroaching on their territory. Buffalo is just 96 miles from Hamilton.

Hamilton has a population of approximately 650,000, but there are 2.5 million people living in its metropolitan area.

The city of Halifax and placing a second team in Toronto have also been mentioned as potential expansion projects. However, Quebec City and Hamilton would appear to be the leading candidates.


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