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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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NHL Open To Expansion, Says New Entry Fee Would Be ‘A Lot’

  • The NHL is rumored to be exploring expanding beyond its current 32 teams.
  • Atlanta is seen as a frontrunner for expansion despite two previous failed franchises.
Seattle Kraken skaters celebrate with goaltender Martin Jones
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll see no expansion teams this NHL season, but speculation is growing that the league will soon explore further growth beyond its current 32 teams.

Last month, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly made some surprising but supportive comments about the perceived viability of professional hockey in Atlanta, sparkling new hope for the city that has twice seen an NHL team relocate for greener pastures.

Atlanta developers are considering a $1 billion project that includes an arena fit for an NHL team, among other uses. One report recently suggested that the project received state approvals — and that Atlanta appears to be the “leader of the pack” for NHL expansion among cities currently without a viable arena.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wouldn’t confirm that expansion is imminent, but also wouldn’t shut down the idea. “We’re not there,” Bettman said. “We’re just getting expressions of interest.”

Bettman said a potential expansion fee would simply be “a lot.” The Seattle Kraken’s owners paid a record $650 million to enter the league in 2021. Vegas Golden Knights ownership paid $500 million in 2016 and debuted in 2017.

Houston, Salt Lake City, and Quebec City are other markets linked to possible NHL expansion.

North America’s Top Dog

Any further expansion would make the NHL larger than the rest of North America’s Big Five.

The NFL held that title by itself until the NHL added Seattle to make 32 teams. The NBA and MLB currently sit at 30 teams, but both are exploring expansion in the coming years.

MLS currently has 29 teams and will grow to 30 with the addition of San Diego in 2025.

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