NHL Relocation, Expansion Could See Teams in Toronto, Quebec, Seattle

Gary BettmanWhat would an NHL season be — even a shortened one — if there wasn’t talk of franchise relocation and/or expansion? Well, now we can officially say the 2013 season is underway as a key vote near the city of Toronto has sparked the expansion/relocation debate once more.

NHL fans previously heard some relocation rumblings when it was announced that the Sacramento Kings of the NBA were sold to a buyer in Seattle. The plan there is to move the team to the Pacific Northwest and build an arena that is more than capable of housing an NHL franchise.

What spurred the conversation even more was a vote on Tuesday night at 3 AM ET in the morning that has given the city of Markham approval to build an NHL arena. Markham is part of the Greater Toronto area (the northern part of the city).

Along with Quebec City, the NHL now has three cities that are ready standing with owners and stadiums in hand just waiting for the league’s call. On Wednesday, deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested that the NHL has no plans to expand or relocate, but let’s face it: there is a lot of smoke right now even though the league says there is no fire.

The first team that will be in the crosshairs is the Phoenix Coyotes, who is currently operated by the NHL. For four years they have tried to find a buyer and steady the situation in Glendale but it hasn’t worked. At what point does the league scrap their plans in the desert and opt for a city where a real owner can run the team?

The Seattle idea is particularly enticing for relocation as it allows the league to sell the expansion rights in Toronto and Quebec for exorbitant prices. Expanding to Seattle might not make much sense as they won’t pay a lot for it but in Toronto or Quebec — two meccas of hockey — owners will be tripping over themselves to get a team.

The league has to be licking their chops at the idea of having another team in Toronto. After all, there are three teams in the New York area and two in Southern California. How can there only be one in Toronto — the city with the biggest density of hockey fans? People are happy to pay more per ticket in Toronto than anywhere else and that’s regardless if the team is any good. There’s a dire need for another franchise in the city where demand is high and supply is low.

For now, the focus is on the 30 current NHL teams and who will win the Stanley Cup this year. While you can bet on those odds at Bovada, it might not be long before the league adds another to the mix.

Odds to win 2012 Stanley Cup

Pittsburgh Penguins 17-2

Chicago Blackhawks 9-1

New York Rangers 9-1

San Jose Sharks 9-1

St. Louis Blues 9-1

Boston Bruins 10-1

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