The NHL went on a bit of an expansion spree when it added four new franchises into the fold around the turn of the new millennium in the form of the Predators, Thrashers, Blue Jackets, and Wild.
After a somewhat lengthy break, the league once again grew when the Golden Knights officially arrived in Las Vegas in 2017 before Seattle got in on the action when the Kraken kicked off their inaugural season in 2021.
While commissioner Gary Bettman hasn’t officially announced any new expansion plans, it appears the NHL may be on the verge of growing from 32 to 34 teams based on what unfolded over the weekend.
On Sunday, a Twitter account devoted to lobbying the NHL to bring a team to the most populous city in Texas teased an impending development when it suggested the Houston Aeros and a resurrected version of the Atlanta Thrashers will become the newest members of the league.
While it was very easy to be skeptical of that claim, retired goaltender-turned-insider Kevin Weekes added a ton of credence to the rumor with a tweet of his own.
👀 🤐.@espn @NHL @NHLNetwork @TSNHockey @DKSportsbook #HockeyTwitter https://t.co/g8aLnSVQgJ
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) March 5, 2023
However, the news didn’t sit well with one group of hockey fans who are not thrilled Quebec City has apparently been snubbed.
That metropolis was home to the Quebec Nordiques between 1972 and 1995 but has been without an NHL team since the franchise rebranded as the Colorado Avalanche. In January, Bettman said he was open to returning to the city, but also downplayed the possibility by claiming “We’re not in an expansion mode.”
As a result, plenty of people were given yet another reason to tear into Bettman after Weekes added fuel to the fire.
Atlanta over Quebec City is, um, moronic https://t.co/2DXTgxC4o9
— Nolan (@nolanc79) March 5, 2023
Quebec City before these two. https://t.co/8hC66V7wWO
— ⚜️ 🇨🇦 Ian 🇫🇷 ⚜️ (@IanCanada01) March 5, 2023
Why not Quebec City instead of Atlanta 🤔 https://t.co/p2VSL1f8Ut
— Kyle (checkmark) 🇺🇦 (@cobrakyle40) March 5, 2023
Gary trying to pull off Atlanta for the third time should be it to give him a boot right?
Houston or Quebec City. Maybe even both if there is another team losing money as fast Arizona is. https://t.co/6X5lHSkHC0
— Sam Tirpák (@SammyT_51) March 6, 2023
The rumored decision to return to Atlanta is indeed a curious one when you consider the Flames and the Thrashers were unable to find extended success in the city.
With that said, it’s easy to understand why the NHL might be focusing on two major untapped markets in the southern United States as opposed to entering a Canadian one where there’s already plenty of interest in the league.
It’s worth noting Andy Strickland spoke with a league source who disputed the notion any expansion is imminent.
League source on rumors of Atlanta and Houston expansion. They are two cities that have expressed interest but neither of these two are ahead of anyone else, and nothing is happening soon, if at all….went on to say “Not sure these two cities are even at top of our list” #NHL
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) March 6, 2023
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.