The owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, is reportedly in talks with the NHL about bringing a team to Texas’ biggest city, Bloomberg reports (subscription required). The NHL is the last of the major male sports leagues to not have a team in Houston, with the NBA, NFL, MLB, and MLS all existing in the city since 2005. Fertitta told Bloomberg, “We are talking to the NHL, but it’s got to be good for both of us… We just know that when there’s a concert downtown, how it activates downtown, we know what the Astros do for downtown, we know what even soccer does for downtown.”
Fertitta mentions that he’s been discussing an NHL team with the league ever since his acquisition of the Rockets in 2017, but that talks have recently ramped up – even sharing that he’s received interest from Houston suburbs willing to host a team, though Fertitta would prefer to keep the arena downtown. Fertitta’s Rockets currently play out of the Toyota Center, which recently underwent renovations to make it suitable for a hockey team.
Houston has been named as one of six cities interested in potential NHL expansion, with Salt Lake City, Utah, requesting official initiation of an NHL expansion process. The request was made by the Smith Entertainment Group, which also owns the NBA’s Utah Jazz, as well as teams in both the MLS and NWSL. The NHL called Salt Lake a “promising market” and acknowledged the next steps they’re taking towards making Utah their newest host. Houston may soon enter a similar process, now expressing interest in a team a month after Salt Lake City’s request.
While both cities could make sense for an expansion team, the NHL could also eye them as potential landing spots for the Arizona Coyotes, if the team’s ownership can’t make progress on a new arena soon enough. The NHLPA recently shared that Arizona has missed two deadlines to find a new arena, adding significant pressure to the search. That pressure is no doubt added to now with two billionaire ownership groups with ties to the NBA and other professional sports leagues declaring their interest in an NHL club.