Ken Sugiura: Interest in NHL expansion team in Atlanta stronger than you think

Ken Sugiura, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Hockey

ATLANTA — Whether it happens that the NHL sets up shop in Atlanta for a third time remains to be seen. But the league and the owners of its 32 franchises know beyond a doubt that interest is strong.

Two groups, one based in Forsyth County and another in Alpharetta, are known to have reached out to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to express their desire for an expansion franchise in Atlanta (or its northern suburbs, to be more precise). But there’s actually more that have had the league’s ear, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“When you talk about Atlanta, we’ve had multiple expressions of interest, and you’re probably aware of some and not aware of others,” Daly said in a phone interview.

He declined to offer more specifics on the number of additional parties or what their plans are. (If you’re wondering, Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank is not part of any NHL expansion group.)

“They were all good,” Daly said. “We appreciated their interest. They were prepared; they seemed passionate about having NHL hockey. We were impressed by all of them.”

The competition only confirms what the NHL recognizes — that while the possibility of the league awarding an expansion franchise to Atlanta for a third time may induce some eye rolling among NHL pooh-bahs, the metropolitan area is more than capable of fielding a viable operation.


No one would seek a franchise without confidence it can work, particularly given the cost involved. And there are at least three groups in metro Atlanta that believe strongly enough in the market that they’re evidently willing to fork over perhaps a billion dollars to the NHL just to obtain a franchise. That’s a language that any business can understand.

“I believe the NHL can be successful in Atlanta — or the Atlanta area,” Daly said. “But, again, we’re not at the point of saying we need to add franchises.”

There are a number of steps that any group — whether it’s the one led by car-dealership magnate Vernon Krause in Forsyth County, the one led by former NHL player Anson Carter with plans to build an arena near North Point Mall in Alpharetta or the mystery candidate(s) — will have to take before any pucks drop here.

First off, the NHL is not seeking to expand beyond its 32 teams and won’t alter that stance at least until its situation with the Arizona Coyotes is fully resolved. (Lacking a suitable arena, the Coyotes reportedly are moving to Salt Lake City, although it’s possible the NHL will award Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo another franchise in Phoenix if he can get a new arena built.)


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