Houston at 'very top' of cities to land NHL team amid Arizona uncertainty, ESPN's Buccigross says

Adam Winkler Image
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Houston should be 'bullish' on landing NHL team, ESPN commentator says
ESPN's John Buccigross believes Houston is at the top of the list when it comes to landing an NHL team through relocation or expansion.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States. The Bayou City is also known as the fourth-largest marketing area in our nation. However, H-Town doesn't have a National Hockey League team.

That could change, though.

"Houston should be very bullish on getting a team at some point," ESPN NHL commentator John Buccigross told ABC13 Wednesday via Zoom.

Hockey-hungry fans in Houston renewed hope in landing an NHL team after the results of a special election in Tempe, Arizona, which is currently home to the NHL's Coyotes.

Voters in the Phoenix suburb voted against three propositions to build a $2.3 billion entertainment district, paid mostly through private funding, which would include a new arena for the Coyotes.

The team, which currently plays in a 5,000-seat arena on the campus of Arizona State University, had hoped a new arena in Tempe would finally allow the franchise to settle down after playing in three different venues since moving to Arizona in 1996.

"The National Hockey League is terribly disappointed by the results of the public referendum regarding the Coyotes' arena project in Tempe," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "We are going to review with the Coyotes what the options might be going forward."

ABC13 spoke with an NHL official Wednesday and asked if the "review" or "options" included a potential move to Houston. The official referred Eyewitness Sports back to the statement and said there's nothing more to add at this point.

"It's likely over in Arizona unless somebody steps up big time," Buccigross said of the Coyotes' future after the results of the arena vote. "Houston's right there at the very top of the list. That would be a very creative, attractive place for the NHL. Plus, the league is trying to be more diverse and look more like America. So that's another secret sauce of Houston: it gives you that other flavor."

Whether it's through Coyotes relocation or an expansion team, Buccigross says Houston should expect an NHL team, and rather quickly.

"With 25 U.S.-based teams, we have room to grow in Houston, in Atlanta, in Salt Lake City and maybe Sacramento," he said. "Whether it's the Coyotes or through expansion, which gives you time to plan, if I live in Houston and I'm a hockey fan, I would expect to have a team sometime this decade."

According to ESPN, the Coyotes will remain at Arizona State's Mullett Arena for the 2023-2024 season. The network also notes Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta controls the Toyota Center, meaning any NHL team that plays there would be a tenant.

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