The NHL would seriously consider an expansion bid from the Atlanta area if the league did decide to add a 33rd franchise, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski Tuesday.
There’s been a quick one-two punch of recent expansion adds with the inception of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 and the Seattle Kraken in 2021, the league’s first adds in nearly two decades since bringing in the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in 2000. That’s led to more public chatter about further expansion, fuelled even further by the record-setting sale of the Ottawa Senators for nearly $1B. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman maintains that expansion isn’t top of mind for the NHL right now, however, and more pressing concerns for the league and the NHLPA revolve around returning to a consistent international tournament schedule. When the league does decide to add to its family, however, Daly told Wyshynski they’ll employ an “open-door policy” when considering potential markets.
Daly believes the past reasons why two Atlanta franchises (the Flames and Thrashers) failed can be “overcome” if the league did accept a bid for a third franchise in the area, the eighth largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States.
“Market demographics have changed pretty dramatically since the first time we went there and then again in 1999,” Daly told Wyshynski. He believes a more suburban arena site, such as the one currently under construction in Alpharetta, would yield better attendance returns, citing the MLB’s Atlanta Braves as a platform for success after their move in 2017.
Atlanta will face fierce competition should an opening for a 33rd NHL team arise, however. Salt Lake City and Hartford-based ownership groups have been hot on the trail of the Arizona Coyotes should relocation become necessary, while Houston and Quebec City remain obvious choices (with the latter receiving significant government support from the province).