Could Sacramento Support an NHL Team if the Arizona Coyotes Move?

Arizona Coyotes (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Arizona Coyotes (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

With the news that the Arizona Coyotes‘ much-hyped Tempe stadium proposal failed at the ballot box, the inevitable relocation speculation has already begun.

Put away that celebratory poutine, Quebec City fans, as all speculation seems to be on potential American markets. One of those cities is Sacramento.

When you think of California, the city of Sacramento most likely doesn’t come to mind. Visitors are more likely to think of places such as Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, or even San Diego.

Even though Sacramento is the Golden State’s capital city, it still takes a back seat to seemingly more exciting locales.

As of right now, this is pure speculation that Elliotte Friedman mentioned on his latest “32 Thoughts” podcast.

Sacramento was sure to raise a few eyebrows since it’s not one of the usual suspects usually mentioned when it comes to NHL relocation along with the likes of Houston, Quebec City, or even Atlanta. Could Sacramento even support an NHL franchise?

Could Sacramento support the Coyotes if their time in Arizona is over?

The only one of the four major professional sports that has ever had a team in Sacramento is the National Basketball Association with the Sacramento Kings. The city has tried to land an MLS franchise with no success.

Up until a few years ago, the Kings’ future in Sacramento seemed almost as uncertain as the Coyotes’ future in Arizona, as the team was nearly relocated to Seattle.

Let’s specifically look at the sport of hockey. Since 1985, when the Kings moved to Sacramento, the city has never hosted an ice hockey team even in the minor leagues. The closest thing to a professional hockey team the city ever had was the Sacramento River Rats of the Roller Hockey International League from 1994-1997.

Previous NHL expansion cities of Seattle and Vegas had a storied minor league, and junior league for Seattle, history prior to the NHL’s arrival.

Perception of Sacramento as a sports city has changed for the better over recent years. The Kings moved into their brand new arena, Golden 1 Center, in 2016 (it’s the one with the beam you’ve probably heard about).

Also, the Kings finally broke their 16-year playoff brought (see, Buffalo Sabres fans, other teams did have it worse) this year and the franchise seems to be finally improving after years of meddling results.

Did I mention the “beam” that’s become so famous on Twitter? Imagine lighting that after a hockey game.

Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé is also among the potential ownership groups for the Ottawa Senators franchise. No, I don’t expect the Senators to move to Sacramento. I do expect that if Ranadivé misses out on the Senators, and the Arizona Coyotes opportunity comes up, he might already have some interest.

When the only professional sports owner in the area is already looking at investing in the sport and has a beautiful new arena, that’s usually a good sign even for this long-shot bid.

We can’t ignore Sacramento’s proximity to the Bay Area. The Bay Area also has its own NHL franchise with the San Jose Sharks and an AHL team in the San Jose Barracuda. Could two teams in the same league exist in two media markets so close to each other?

If the spirited playoff series this past season between the Kings and Golden State Warriors is any indication, then maybe.

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Sacramento seems like the perfect market for a minor league team. There is no doubt the city and the Kings owner wants to expand their major sport properties. Hockey might be a little bit too tough of a sell just yet in California’s capital.