With yesterday’s announcement that the New York Islanders will be moving to Brooklyn to play at the Barclays Center starting in 2015-16, the folks in the Pacific Northwest who long for the NHL to come to Seattle had one relocation option removed from their radar. Others options still remain, be they likely ones (Phoenix Coyotes) or unlikely (Edmonton Oilers), but the Islanders news does make you stop and wonder what route the NHL will take to get into Seattle if that city is able to get an arena built there. Will it be via expansion or relocation?
Much has been made about the proposed league realignment idea that was scuttled this past season. The uneven conference sizes fueled speculation that two expansion teams could or soon would be added, and with all the hubbub that has been going on in Seattle, Quebec City and Markham this past year, the focus has been on those three locations being the frontrunners. Conventional wisdom has had it that two of these cities will get expansion teams while one will be given a team via relocation. So if that ends up being the case, which city will get the relocated team, and which cities will receive expansion teams?
If the league wants to right itself financially, as well as take a solid step into a new market, then the plan should be for Seattle to receive a team via relocation, while Quebec City and Markham get expansion teams. Why? Because Quebec City and Markham are going to be slam dunks for the NHL. No one doubts for a moment that those hockey-mad areas won’t support their teams from Day One. They will be financially successful from the get-go because hockey is part of the Canadian culture and these folks will embrace their new team regardless of how they get it. The only thing the NHL will have to worry about is trying to predict when Canadian currency is going to start losing value against the almighty US dollar again, and how these areas will respond to that crisis when it hits.