Despite commissioner Gary Bettman’s denials, rumors are surfacing once again that the NHL is planning to expand.
“There continues to be a number of people, entities, and cities expressing interest in having an NHL franchise where they don’t have one — places like Atlanta, like Houston, like Quebec City — but we’re not in expansion mode right now,” Bettman said.
But some, like longtime ESPN anchor John Buccigross, have reported that Atlanta is indeed getting a team. The Georgia city has had two NHL expansion teams before — the Flames and the Thrashers — but lost both within 31 years. The Thrashers played their last game in Atlanta in 2011.
“We haven’t studied it, but to the extent that we’re getting expressions of interest from the general Atlanta region, it’s in locations for arenas that are different than where they’ve been,” Bettman said.
Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S. by population, is also thought to be a top contender.
The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek recently suggested Toronto, Quebec City, Kansas City, and Halifax as cities that would be a viable option for NHL expansion.
The last time the league expanded was during the 2021-22 season with the addition of the Seattle Kraken, the league’s 32nd team. The Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL in 2017.