Despite NHL commissioner Gary Bettman saying recently that league expansion wasn’t imminent, many didn’t believe him. In fact, his comments re-ignited an expansion discussion that was already hot, bringing it to a fervor not quite seen in a while. One city that’s remained a constant in expansion discussions over the past few cycles is Houston. TSN’s Chris Johnston boosted a report from the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen today, pointing out that the Toyota Center in downtown Houston is undergoing significant renovations: one of them being the addition of ice-making equipment in a big first step to bring the arena to NHL readiness.
The addition is part of an ongoing $30MM renovation to the arena, currently the home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets. The Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta, will likely be the name to put in a bid for an NHL franchise should the league take applications for team 33 (and potentially 34) soon. Houston, the fifth-largest TV market in the United States, hasn’t had a notable pro hockey team since the AHL’s Houston Aeros were relocated to become the Iowa Wild in 2013.
Elsewhere around the league tonight:
- After a much-publicized disappointing preseason, there’s more bad news for New York Rangers winger Alexis Lafrenière. The team announced Saturday night he’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury and did not practice today. While he is likely to start the season on his off-wing alongside Filip Chytil and Artemi Panarin, it certainly hasn’t been the start under new head coach Peter Laviolette that Lafrenière has been looking for. The 21-year-old first-overall pick in 2020 had 39 points in 81 games last season.
- Many NHL fans from the 2000s and early 2010s will remember enforcer Matt Cooke, who earned himself many lengthy suspensions over the course of his 16-season, 1,046-game NHL career. After only coaching for a few seasons at the high school level in Minnesota since retiring in 2015, he’s now being entrusted with the head coaching job of an NHL affiliate. The ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers, the second-tier affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced today Cooke will be their next head coach. Cooke succeeds Eric Wellwood, who was promoted to an assistant role with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies last summer.