You are currently viewing 7 cities for potential National Hockey League (NHL) expansion

For people who love sports, traveling to games is one of the most interesting and unique ways to enjoy them. Hockey is by far Canada’s favorite sport, and there may very well be a new destination possible very soon.

All signs point to the Arizona Coyotes moving to Utah this week. As much as their college arena was embarrassing, the destination itself was great for travelers.

Salt Lake City was amongst the 7 cities mentioned by Commissioner Gary Bettman when he recently spoke of NHL expansion, so here’s the list of those cities he cited.

 

Map of the 7 cities

Here’s the infographic with the 7 cities.

See the full-size infographic

 

Here are a few details on each, including some must-see attractions for a potential trip there to see a game.

 

1. Salt Lake City (Utah)

Population: 2.8 million (24th)

Other teams: Jazz (NBA)

Salt Lake City, USA (photo credit: Brent Pace)

 

This is the least subtle of the candidates. The billionaire in his 40s who owns the basketball team has openly courted the league. Hopefully, the name will be more representative than the Jazz, because there are very few places that are less “jazzy” than Utah.

The arena would be the aging Delta Center, but a brand new one would be built with loads of public funds, so eventually the experience would be among the best.

Zion National Park, USA (photo credit: Matthew Hicks)

 

The city is growing and could host its 2nd Olympics in 2034, but the highlights of a trip to see a game in Salt Lake City are going to be the natural beauty of this stunning state and its 5 national parks (“Mighty 5”) more than the city itself.

 

2. Houston (Texas)

Population: 7.7 million (8th)

Other teams: Texans (NFL), Astros (MLB), Rockets (NBA)

Houston, USA (photo credit: Vlad Busuioc)

 

This is a contender mainly because of how huge it is. It’s almost twice the population of Montreal and the most populous U.S. metropolitan area without a team in all 4 sports.

The arena would be the relatively new Toyota Center, which is at least very well located downtown.

Toyota Center, USA (photo credit: Alexander Londoño)

 

The city pleasantly surprised me, with plenty of interesting attractions for all types of travelers. I have nothing but good things to say, especially as a big fan of barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine! Did you know that Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the country?

 

3. Atlanta, Georgia

Population: 7.2 million (10th)

Other teams: Falcons (NFL), Braves (MLB), Hawks (NBA)

Atlanta, USA (photo credit: ibuki Tsubo)

 

Bad things always come in 3s, right? Atlanta is still around despite the 2 previous failures because it’s another absolutely huge city. I remember going to a Thrashers game a long time ago, maybe others will be able to experience it too after all.

The arena would be a brand new one built very far away in the northern suburbs of the city. For comparison’s sake, it would be further away than the U.S. border is from Vancouver.

Atlanta, USA (photo credit: Richard Sagredo)

 

Atlanta is an increasingly trendy urban destination, but it’s still not very high on travelers’ bucket lists. Most people are just passing through, since Atlanta Airport (ATL) is the busiest in the world, thanks to its Delta mega-hub.

 

4. Kansas City (Missouri)

Population: 2.6 million (31st)

Other teams: Chiefs (NFL), Royals (MLB)

Kansas City, USA (photo credit: Colton Sturgeon)

 

No, it’s not in Kansas. Not the main part anyway. The Midwestern city came close to successfully attracting the Penguins a few years ago and is still interested in getting a team again. The Scouts played in the 1970s and became the Devils.

The arena already exists and is quite empty, the magnificent Sprint Center downtown. The fact they won’t need public funds is a plus because taxpayers have just voted against a big gift to the city’s 2 other teams who want to renovate their stadiums.

Kansas City, USA (photo credit: Justin Bennett)

 

Even without having been there, I’m sure the stereotype of the boring Midwestern city is inappropriate, as are most stereotypes and prejudices for that matter. Fun fact, it’s one of the cities with the most landscaped boulevards in the world! And it has lots of parks and greenery.

 

5. Cincinnati (Ohio)

Population: 2.3 million (36th)

Other teams: Bengals (NFL), Reds (MLB)

Cincinnati, USA (photo credit: Jake Blucker)

 

Here’s a city that hasn’t been often listed as a potential hockey destination. Especially since Columbus is less than 2 hours away. Personally, I wouldn’t bet on this option.

Plus, the city’s arena is completely outdated, so they would need to take care of that.

Roebling Bridge, USA (photo credit: Matt Koffel)

 

That being said, I absolutely loved my visit to Cincinnati. It’s considered to be the first purely American city, developed with less European influence because it was founded a little later than those on the coast.

 

6. Omaha (Nebraska)

Population: 1.0 million (64th)

Other teams: None

Omaha, USA (photo credit: Jesse Duering)

 

If Cincinnati was surprising, imagine Omaha! It was named by Bettman more so as an intent to show that plenty of cities have expressed interest, but the chances that you’ll get to see an NHL team play in Omaha are very slim.

However, the arena does exist, and it’s one that surprisingly seats over 17,000 people. It’s mostly used for the annual shareholder meetings of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, USA (photo credit: evan shidler)

 

The city isn’t in my top 10 in the U.S., not even in my top 20, but with Kevin, the other co-founder of Flytrippers, we found the downtown area very pretty and lively during a road trip in the region.

 

7. Québec (Québec)

Population: 0.8 million (7th)

Other teams: None

Québec, Canada (photo credit: Nathalia Segato)

 

If I could have listed it 50th, that’s what I would have done, as that seems to be how the NHL sees the city. In the 2 recent expansions, Québec was rejected and there doesn’t seem to be any indication that this has changed at all. This is despite Québec having as many inhabitants as Winnipeg.

The very recent arena is ready and I recently went in for the first time for a show, it’s very beautiful.

Montmorency Falls, Canada (photo credit: Merc)

 

Having lived there for 6 years, Québec City has so many interesting attractions! The most European of Canadian cities, the old town itself is worth a visit.

 

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Summary

There were 7 cities mentioned by the National Hockey League commissioner in relation to the expansion of the league. Some would be more interesting than others for fans traveling to games.

 

What would you like to know about NHL expansion cities? Tell us in the comments below.

 

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Featured image: Infographic (image credit: Flytrippers)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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