Could the NHL come to Houston? If Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has his way, it would be. The newest NBA owner had his introductory press conference today. While the majority of the questions naturally pertained to the Rockets franchise, Fertitta was asked about the possibility of a NHL team coming to Houston.
“I would put an NHL team here tomorrow, but this one has got to work,” Fertitta said (via Alex Del Barrio of CBS Houston). “Would I love to have the other dates in the building, do I want to see Toyota Center filled up 300 nights a year, definitely. So we’ll do whatever we can do, but whatever we do is going to make sense. But yes, Will we be aggressive? Yes. That’s my nature.”
“We’ve looked at many NHL teams over the years and it wasn’t a matter of not wanting to bring in somebody as whether they’d be a tenant or not, it’s just that the deals didn’t work,” said Rockets CEO Tad Brown. “Leslie (Alexander) was always looking forward to opportunities that could make the city better, the sports scene in the city better, and Toyota Center more effective and fill more dates. The NHL at the time, the teams that he looked and that we looked at, the numbers didn’t work, the CBA didn’t work, and it just didn’t work for the structure that we had in place.”
As Del Barrio writes, Houston has a long history of professional hockey. Gordie Howe once played for the Aeros of the WHA, while the unaffiliated Aeros of the AHL called Houston their home for nearly 20 years (that franchise ultimately moved to Des Moines, Iowa in 2013). Former Rockets owner Leslie Alexander famously purchased the Edmonton Oilers in the late 1990s, but he was unwilling to meet the clause that required the franchise to remain in Edmonton for another seven years. The city was also considered for an expansion franchise, but teams were ultimately awarded elsewhere.
Several months ago, our own Zach Leach asked if Houston was a viable location for a new franchise. Ultimately, more than 50-percent of you said that the city would be a great fit.