After Katie Strang of The Athletic reported this morning that the new owner of Houston Rockets Tilman Fertitta visited NHL offices to speak with the league, the man himself took to Twitter to qualify his intentions.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m very interested in the possibility of bringing the NHL to Houston, but it will have to be a deal that works for my organization, the City, fans of the NHL throughout the region and the NHL Board of Governors. We are in the very early stage of evaluating what opportunities may exist but look forward to a thorough process.
As we said earlier, this by no means makes Houston a guaranteed destination for the NHL in the near future. It does however increase the probability of it happening, with both expansion and relocation now possibilities for the city.
Fertitta bought the NBA’s Rockets for $2.2B this summer, and immediately spoke about the possibility of bringing the NHL to the city. In October, even just as he was being introduced as the team’s new owner he spoke about the NHL.
I would put an NHL team here tomorrow, but [the Rockets franchise] has got to work. 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.
The league however has been less immediate about their desire to expand or relocate. In fact, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told Strang “we’re not relocating any clubs right now,” and in a press conference in Sweden said that they weren’t “considering anybody” for expansion at the moment. Bettman did admit that they would listen to those who had continued interest in an expansion franchise but that they wouldn’t go to 32 teams just to be symmetrical.