NHL relocation hasn’t been seen since 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers moved north of the border to Winnipeg to become the second incarnation of the Jets. But could the league be set for further moves?
And somewhat ironically, it’s another relocation franchise which has been attracting attention this week.
The Calgary Flames are making noises about gaining a new arena to replace their current Scotiabank Saddledome and Flames’ president of hockey, the ever-quotable Brian Burke has gone as far to say that without a new rink, the 2004 Stanley Cup finalists – who arrived in Alberta via Atlanta in 1983 –could up sticks and relocate.
Every year it seems there’s some talk of relocation with rumors suggesting Quebec, Seattle, and even Portland are among the front-runners to gain a franchise either through relocation or further expansion.
But for one city to gain a franchise in a relocation, another market must lose theirs. So which clubs may be seeing a change of scenery in the not so distant future?
Long since mooted to be the favorites to be moved, annual chatter about the ‘Yotes moving out of the desert has become somewhat of a summer sport.
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As recently as March 2017, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was quoted as saying – similarly to Calgary’s Burke – that if a new arena isn’t built, the team is gone. AZ Central reported the threat even went as far as Bettman claiming that the Coyotes “Cannot and will not remain in Arizona.”
The desert dogs looked set to move to Hamilton, Ontario in 2009 before prospective buyer Jim Balsillie’s offer was rejected.
But factor in the Coyotes averaging the second-lowest attendance in the league – behind only the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona look like prime candidates for a switch in location – and surely it’s only a matter of time before the original Winnipeg Jets move on once again.