Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ross D Franklin/AP/Shutterstock (13688142ak) Arizona Coyotes fans celebrate a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Tempe, Ariz., . The Coyotes won 6-3 Maple Leafs Coyotes Hockey, Tempe, United States – 29 Dec 2022
Fred Faour: Would the NHL work in Houston? If so, it might also solve Houston’s biggest sports dilemma
A week ago Monday, the next hockey superstar put on a show. Connor Bedard, the soon-to-be-top pick in the NHL draft and the next “transcendent talent” to enter the league, lifted Canada to victory in overtime of the World Junior Hockey Championships.
In 3-on-3 OT, Bedard zipped through all three opposing players and scored on a beautiful backhand. It was the kind of rare skill that fans will enjoy for a long time.
It sure would be nice to see him in Houston at some point. But that would require the NHL to come to the city. And the biggest question is, would the NHL work in Houston?
There are plenty of reasons to believe it would.
Houston is on its way to becoming the third-largest city in America. A lot of the people moving in are from the Midwest, where hockey is popular. They might not necessarily become fans of the new team, but they will have kids who might become fans through youth programs.
Close your eyes for a moment and picture this: A group of Houston Billionaires buy a struggling existing team and move it to Houston. The value of the franchise would improve immediately.
Where would they play?
Unless Tilman Fertitta buys the team, Toyota Center is a no-go. The Rockets would get all the key revenue. Fertitta has entertained the idea in the past, but realistically, an NHL team would be competing for ad revenue and corporate suite sales, so it would probably make sense for another group to buy the team.
And how about killing two birds with one stone? Renovate the Astrodome and make it a multipurpose facility with a hockey rink/arena, bars, restaurants, and a Houston sports Hall Fame – the possibilities are endless.
Imagine the naming rights you could get for the Astrodome. The city cleans up a useless eyesore and makes it something special – a tourist attraction once again. It would buy the team some goodwill, at least at first.
But wouldn’t there be problems?
Of course. You would have to work home games around the rodeo, which is during prime hockey season. There would be other things to work out. Where would the team play while the Dome was being prepared?
Can it really be profitable?
The two lowest-valued franchises in the NHL are Florida ($550 million) and Arizona ($450 million). If you get one of those teams at close to value, moving to Houston will make it worth much more, perhaps close to a billion. A shiny new stadium tied to the Astrodome would increase the value even more. Arizona is not a bad market, it has just been plagued by poor facilities and management. A purchase could change all that.
Would there really be enough interest in hockey in Houston?
That’s the billion dollar question. You can think there is a market, but you never really know. One thing that would ensure fan interest? A winning team. Houston will always get behind a winner. You tend to get a year of goodwill just for bringing in a team, but if you can get competitive quickly – like the Vegas Golden Knights did – you can build an instant audience. A young superstar marquee player would put butts in seats as well.
Plus, there would be the draw of other star players when they visit. Connor McDavid in Edmonton. Auston Matthews in Toronto. Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado. And if Bedard becomes a player like that?
It sure would be nice to see him in Houston.
Why not get Ferttita on board? With JJ Watt retiring, he’d be an interesting person to get involved as well. As a Penguins fan, I’d love for hockey to come to Htown.
WE NEED A TEAM, I MISS MY AEROS
You had me until you mentioned the Astrodome.