A majority of “high-profile” NHL players polled at a recent media day prefer Quebec City as the next destination for league expansion, reports USA Today’s Kevin Allen. Seattle and Houston were the other choices to receive votes, although Quebec City was the runaway leader.
Of 31 players surveyed by USA Today, 21 of them chose Quebec City as the best location for a new NHL franchise. Seattle got nine votes and Houston got one.
There hasn’t been an NHL team in Quebec City since the Nordiques were relocated to Colorado by new ownership in 1995. However, Allen writes that, “the NHL economic scheme is far different today, and it is presumed a new Quebec franchise would have a much easier time being a financial success.”
The NHL will likely add another franchise in the near future after expanding with the Vegas Golden Knights. There are now 15 teams in the Western Conference and 16 teams in the Eastern Conference, so adding one more would allow the league to balance its conferences.
Seattle has been considered a logical fit given its market size and geographic location in the Pacific Northwest. The city is renovating KeyArena, former home of the NBA’s SuperSonics, to lure NHL and/or NBA franchises to the area. Adding a team there would expand hockey’s footprint in the U.S. and allow for an easy balancing of the conferences.
Quebec City, meanwhile, already has a fancy new arena that’s calling for an NHL team, and a hibernating fan base from the Nordiques’ run. It would potentially require realignment with the NHL, and would leave a big chunk of America remaining without a team, but there’s a reason so many around the league support it. The idea of an eight-team, all-Canadian division is definitely interesting.
Then again, it’s worth remembering that a ton of NHL players are Canadian, and it’s no surprise they’d prefer the league expand further into Canada rather than add another American team. The poll results aren’t exactly shocking. It’s just not clear whether returning to Quebec City is in the league’s best interests at this point.
Expansion is a slow process, so it’ll be some time before there’s another team in the NHL, but it seems inevitable. And whenever that time comes, it appears a lot of players will be hoping Quebec City is where the league chooses to go next.