[Source Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer] “There’s a lot of content there. There’s a lot of capability there, but I don’t know if there’s a desire or will within the board of the existing franchises for expansion yet,” Jacobs said. “They both made pretty interesting proposals. Both have very legitimate arenas in place and organizations in place. There’s a capacity out there, but I don’t know if there’s a will from a league standpoint.”
Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is the NHL Chairman of the board of governors. So if the leader of all of the team owners says that he is not sure there is a “desire” from the board for expansion it would seem like Las Vegas and Quebec City have an up hill battle to be awarded an expansion team. Jacobs said some interesting things in this interview. It does not seem like Jacobs is very high on the possibility of Quebec City getting a team again by calling it an “extraordinarily small market.”
In the interview he brought up Seattle and Houston as places he would like to see have teams, but in both cities there are arena issues. With the unbalanced conference it would make the most sense to expand out west, but currently only Las Vegas and Quebec City applied for an expansion team.
If I had to bet the NHL is only going to expand by one and Vegas will be the winner. If the Canadian dollar was at least close to even with the American dollar I could see Quebec City getting a team. The difference between the Canadian doller to the US dollar, and it being a small market is all working against Quebec City getting a team. Obviously cities like Las Vegas, Houston and Seattle have a lot more corporate money to spend on a professional sports team.
According to the stationindex.com Houston is the 10th biggest TV market in the US, Seattle is 14th and Las Vegas is 42nd. The size of the market does not always lead to success. Atlanta is the 8th largest TV market in the US, and that did not work out well for the NHL twice. The Atlanta Flames entered the NHL in 1971. Due to low attendance they were sold and moved to Calgary in 1980. The Thrashers were deja vu for Atlanta hockey fans.
If Quebec City does not get a team this time around it does not mean they will not get one eventually. There are three current NHL markets that have floundering teams; Carolina, Florida and Arizona. Attendance for those teams are terrible. Below is a graph from hockeydb.com that shows average attendance from last season:
Any one of these teams could be moved. Rumors have the Hurricanes are for sale.
Bottom line Jeremy Jacobs has a lot of power among the NHL owners, and if he is saying these things how many other owners feel this way? It makes it seem like expansion is not the slam dunk that a lot of people think it is. The owners want to make money and getting $500 million per team for an expansion fee might be too good of an offer to refuse, but they also want the expansion team to be successful, so it lines their pockets with even more money. This seems odd to me coming from Jeremy Jacobs, who in the past has come across as an owner who just wants to make a buck, and does not really care about the product. Maybe he has turned over a new leaf in his old age, or maybe he is just playing a game of poker and is trying to bluff everyone.