The NHL may be interested in putting a team in the city of Houston, Texas. The last team to join the league was the Las Vegas Golden Knights. They are currently in their historic inaugural season. This may give evidence that the western United States is a prime market for a new hockey team. The state of Texas is the current home of the Dallas Stars. However, the Stars’ home is at the American Airlines Center, 241 miles from Houston. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has met with the Houston Rocket’s franchise owner Tilman Fertitta. While may be nothing more than a preliminary assessment of the area, there are several NHL teams interested in moving.

In addition, the NHL has 31 teams with the expansion of the Golden Knights. So, is the NHL looking to relocate or expand? A report by The Athletic may shed some light on the situation.

Option 1: Relocate the Arizona Coyotes

The Arizona Coyotes have been prowling for a new home arena for a few years now. Glendale, Arizona simply won’t foot the bill for a new stadium. The Coyotes’ are far from a playoff contending organization. Fans seem to notice as the team has seen a decline in attendance in the last few years. Assuming the Coyotes are looking to share the Toyota center with the Houston Rockets, the arena would easily accommodate an NHL team. More Importantly, when the Toyota Center was built in 2003 the people of Houston were more than happy to pay for it. This summer Andrew Barroway became the sole owner of the Coyotes.

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With the problems in Arizona and an arena ready and waiting, it would not be surprising to see the Coyotes move to Houston for a fresh start.

Option 2: Expansion team

NHL fans were introduced to the Las Vegas Golden Knights earlier this season. The team has become a sensation, but initially brought a lot of uncertainty to the league. However, the overall success of the expansion draft and the smooth transition to a 31-team league seem to indicate there is room for more teams in the NHL. The NHL decided to realign conferences before the 2013-14 season. The Eastern Conference had 16 teams and the Western Conference had 14. The addition of the Golden Knights has closed the gap to 16-15. Still, the NHL has likely had the intention of becoming a 32-team league for a few years now. A team in Houston would fit into those plans, as it would become the 16th team in the Western Conference.

Option 3: No team at all

The biggest problem is that many believe there aren’t enough hockey fans in the Houston area.

This isn’t primarily a Houston problem either. NHL teams in the Sunbelt have continuing issues with fan attendance. Yet, Texas may be an exception to the Sunbelt problem. The Dallas Stars consistently have good fan attendance in the last few years. This may prove that it’s not a Sunbelt problem at all. It’s the poor performance of teams in those cities. Still, Gary Bettman may be looking at Houston just to keep rumors away from another city.

So, which option is the NHL looking at?

All rumors are speculation at this point. However, moving the Arizona Coyotes is most likely why Gary Bettman met with Tilman Fertitta. Andrew Barroway is now the sole owner of the declining Coyotes. The team has had two homes in Arizona and neither one has really worked out. Attendance is declining in Glendale and Barroway may be thinking a fresh start is best for his team. An expansion team in Houston is least likely. Especially with cities like Seattle and Saskatoon eager to have an NHL team. Expansions are tricky and new teams must have a large fan base to survive. There just aren’t enough hockey fans in the Sunbelt for a new team to be viable in Houston. However, Gary Bettman met with Tilman Fertitta for a reason. At the very least, Houston is being considered for an NHL team.