One Advantage Quebec City Has In Arizona Coyotes Relocation Rumors

Arizona Coyotes right wing Phil Kessel (81). Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Coyotes right wing Phil Kessel (81). Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

On Thursday morning Eric Macramalla of TSN and Forbes broke the news that the Arizona Coyotes might be for sale again. The franchise has always been the center of relocation rumors. However having a rich owner in Alex Meruelo and the support of the league seemed enough to quiet those rumors down. Even though Meruelo set his sights on buying his team a new stadium, some stadium drama with their current barn Gila River Arena might have been the final straw.

The two most speculated locations for potential NHL relocation are always Houston and Quebec City. Quebec City makes the most sense, as they once had their own NHL team the Quebec Nordiques and have an almost new NHL ready arena in VideoTron Centre ready to go. Various economic concerns lead Houston to be the leading candidate, as Macramalla spells them out here. Houston has been home to AHL and WHA teams in the past. At the end of the day, it seems better for the sport and tradition of hockey to move the team to Quebec, yet better for the business of the league to move it to Houston.

Let’s defend Quebec City here. Let’s put those economic concerns the league can’t control (inflation, currency differences, and Francophone language differences) aside for a second and look at what Quebec City can offer. Most importantly, they have a specifically build NHL arena ready to go. Although Macramalla points to the growth potential of Houston as an NHL market, Quebec City already has a built in fan base for Nordiques fans ready to pack in the arena first chance they get.

What about Winnipeg? The relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to be the new Winnipeg Jets was successful. The NHL should respect similar results if the Coyotes were to move to Winnipeg. The Thrashers were in much worse condition than the Coyotes at the time of their relocation. Even if he’s looking to sell, Meruelo is in fine financial shape. The Atlanta Thrashers were losing massive amounts of money and left with an ownership group that was more concerned with suing each other than the sport of hockey. Even if they had interest from local investors, the clock was ticking on the Thrashers to leave.

Macramalla adds that Houston has an NHL ready arena in Toyota Center. Toyota Center is home to the Houston Rockets of the NBA, so a potential NHL team would have to share the space as cotenants. Remember when the New York Islanders tried to move into an NBA arena at Barclays Center? Remember what a disaster that was? In Toyota Center’s defense, it was built with hockey in mind and not as an after though like Barclays (which lead to the terrible sightlines). Why be roommates with another team in a two decade old arena (Toyota Center opened in 2003), when you can have a brand new bachelor pad in VideoTron center all to yourself?

In Houston’s defense, the rockets are owned by Tilman Fertita. Fertita has deep pockets and is viewed as the most likely potential owner of a Houston NHL franchise. He’s even spoken about his desire to bring an NHL team to the city in the past. One of the Islanders main problems at Barclays Center was disagreements with Brooklyn Nets management. The Nets owned the arena and were the arena’s main tenant, and they weren’t thrilled with sharing their home which lead the Islanders to temporarily go back to Nassau Colosseum. With the Rocket and an NHL team having the same owner in Fertita, those type of problems most likely would be avoided.

Macramalla has been the only one to break the news and his source is said to be an “investment banker”. It’s possible that no sale ends up happening and Meruelo is putting out feelers in case his new stadium plan falls through. The team did just go through a successful semi-rebranding by bringing back their “Kachina” jerseys. At the end of the day, the league (and Gary Bettman) probably want the Coyotes to stay put in Arizona with a new arena of their own. Houston is their backup plan, and a pretty good one at that. If they do go to Houston, please keep the “Kachinas”