Thursday September 28, 2023

NHL Open to Atlanta Revival as League Looks Beyond 32 Teams

  • An NHL executive gave new life to the idea of housing a franchise in Atlanta again.
  • Two previous expansion franchises in Atlanta have seen teams move to new cities.
A rendering of The Gathering at South Forsyth in the Atlanta area, with a proposed $1 billion arena in the background.
The Gathering at South Forsyth
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After multiple failed runs, an almost unthinkable dream may be getting new life — the return of the NHL to Atlanta.

In 2011, the Thrashers moved after 12 years in Atlanta and became the Winnipeg Jets. Prior to that, the Flames franchise spent its first eight NHL seasons in Atlanta before moving in 1980 to Calgary, where they have played since.

But now, amid new development in the city, the NHL appears to be interested in trying a third time in Atlanta. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he thinks that scenarios that previously derailed pro hockey in the city could be “overcome.”

Earlier this year, rumors of the NHL’s return to Atlanta began popping up after a local developer began planning a multi-billion-dollar mixed-use development project whose centerpiece would be an 18,000-seat, hockey-capable arena.

Daly pointed to rink location as paramount — and highlighted how The Battery was boosting the Atlanta Braves’ overall business success. “They struggled, as I understand it, attendance-wise for years, even though they had a very successful team on the field,” he said. “Their latest stadium is in a perfect location and sells out regularly.”

The NHL says it is always open to new markets and apparently wouldn’t have any problem finding new investors if it chose to expand or current teams wanted to sell. “There are more people who want to own professional hockey teams,” Daly said.

It’s unclear if and when the NHL could look to expand beyond 32 teams. However, the league is dealing with a high-profile arena situation in Phoenix as the Coyotes continue to seek a new venue.

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