The NHL should have considered a neutral site for the "Four Nations Face-Off"

The "Four Nations Face-Off" will take place in one American and one Canadian city instead of a neutral site.
Sep 8, 2016; Quebec City, Quebec, Canada; Team North America forward Nathan MacKinnon (29)
Sep 8, 2016; Quebec City, Quebec, Canada; Team North America forward Nathan MacKinnon (29) / Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

We hope you liked this year’s All-Star Weekend because it’s the last one we’re going to see for a few years!

The NHL will host the “Four Nations Face-Off” in 2025 between the United States, Canada, Finland, and Sweden. This international tournament will take the place of the All-Star game next season.

The tournament will consist of a round-robin and then a one-game final. The tournament will take place in Boston and Montreal. That may be a mistake.

32 American and Canadian cities see NHL action frequently. Maybe the NHL should have chosen host cities that don’t already have NHL teams. There is a lot to consider if they haven't already made this Boston/Montreal decision.

The NHL should have considered different spots for the "Four Nations Faceoff"

Quebec City would be the perfect host city for north of the border. The city has had the NHL-ready VideoTron Center waiting for a team since 2015.

The former hometown of the Nordiques was passed over in the last round of expansion, mostly due to economic factors. Since the NHL was going to have once a Canadian host city, they can’t use that excuse to avoid Quebec City for the “Four Nations Face Off”.

VideoTron Center is probably the nicest hockey arena in North America that lacks an NHL team. Sure, the bean counters at league headquarters have their reasons for not putting a team here, but this international tournament will give Quebec City some long-overdue NHL recognition.

There’s no doubt that not only is it a suitable venue, but one that will attract crowds of enthusiastic Quebecois hockey fanatics. The venue has a capacity of over 18,000 for hockey.

Quebec City is also home to the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, an international ice hockey tournament for players under 12 years old. The VideoTron Center is the current home venue taking over for the old Quebec Coliseum, which was also the home venue of the Quebec Nordiques.

Over 1,200 former participants of the tournament would go on to play in the NHL (as of 2018). It would be a heartwarming tribute for players to return to what might have been their first taste of international competition.

It’s a bit harder to think of American venues without NHL teams. Almost every city that can support an NHL team in the United States has one. Hartford, Connecticut, and Atlanta, Georgia are the only two American cities that once had NHL teams but lost them to relocation.

We aren’t counting Cleveland, Ohio, which lost the Cleveland Barons when the franchise folded in 1978 since the NHL has returned to the nearby city of Columbus with the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

Atlanta is trying to build a new arena, which has led to speculation that the NHL might try to return for a third time. The new Atlanta area arena is still years away, at best, so definitely not a potential spot for the “Four Nations Face Off”.

The Atlanta Thrashers' former home of State Farm Arena seems like a good spot for an event like this. Atlanta is home to TNT Sports, a major United States broadcasting partner for the NHL, so that might sway decision-making.

Hartford is interesting thought because it does have a sizeable, yet somewhat antiquated, ice hockey venue with XL Center. The 16,294-seat arena is home to the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack and former home of the Hartford Whalers.

Hartford is conveniently located between the highly populated and hockey-loving cities of Boston and New York. It would be an easy travel destination for Northeastern hockey fans and a unique choice for the NHL. We’ve even said in the past Hartford would make a great place for NHL events such as pre-season games.

Don’t forget Salt Lake City. The city wants an NHL team and is moving full steam ahead in trying to get one.

Maybe the league would give Salt Lake City “Four Nations Face Off” hosting duties as a way to both kick the tires on a potential market and build additional fan interest in the sport. Not to mention the Utah region would be picture-perfect as the backdrop for a hockey tournament. 

Many factors will go into determining which venues will be chosen. We largely ignored venue availability, capacity, how the NHL would split and share revenue, etc. Those are the main factors behind the league’s decision.

Although it would have been nice to see these non-NHL markets get a chance, Boston and Montreal will be good.