The NHL has had it’s fair share of team relocations in the past, more so than any of the four major professional sports leagues in North America. Whether it’s from poor fan attendance, or for not being able to get a deal with the city for a new arena, there have always been NHL franchise that transport their product somewhere else to net more profit. For decades now, Kansas City has been a hot topic for NHL expansion, as they nearly pulled through with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2006, but came up short because of a lack of media exposure and financial instability.
However, the rumors of Kansas City being a candidate for an NHL franchise has resurfaced the past several years, even more so now since Las Vegas earned the rights to start their very own franchise this upcoming fall. With the demands of owning a third professional in Kansas City reaching exponential levels, here are the reasons why Kansas City could be able to support an expansion NHL team in the near future.
Kansas City offers an NHL ready venue
Back in 2007, Kansas City opened up a brand new arena called the Sprint Center in hopes to attract a possible NBA or NHL team. Sprint Center holds a maximum 17,544 people, and in comparison to the T-Mobile Arena – which will be home to the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights – is 44 seats smaller. But it’s not just about the arena itself that makes the Sprint Center entertaining though, it’s what’s around the Sprint Center that is outside. Kansas City has the Power and Light District that fans can go to before the game to eat, to just drink or just hangout. This is a popular spot for events like the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament that is held every March inside the Sprint Center.
Very strong fan base
Kansas City fans are very passionate about their professional sports teams. The year the Royals won the World Series back in 2015, the Royals were ranked fifth in the MLB in attendance averaging 33,438 fans per game, which is 88 percent of the capacity of Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Chiefs were ranked 9th in the NFL with an average of 73,328 fans per game, which is 95% of the stadium capacity.
Kansas City’s MLS team, Sporting KC, draws 19,597 fans per game which is almost at full-capacity every home game, not to mention it’s one of the best fan atmospheres in Major League Soccer. Lastly, the team can draw fan support from cities such as Topeka, Omaha, and Wichita. Can you imagine the atmosphere inside the Sprint Center if Kansas City’s hockey team becomes a contender? It would be one of the best fan atmospheres in hockey without a doubt.
Another I-70 Series rivalry?
In the MLB, the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals represent an inter-state rivalry called the I-70 series. If Kansas City earns an NHL franchise they would give the city of St. Louis a second rivalry to support, and unlike in baseball, both of the teams would most likely be in the Western Conference (where the St.Louis Blues currently play in). It would pretty cool to see an in-state Western Conferences Finals one day that would divide the state of Missouri in half. If both teams get to become contenders, this could be a budding hockey rivalry in the Midwest.
Kansas City’s climate is a natural fit for an NHL Winter Classic Game
Kansas City can get really cold at times during the winter, which makes sense to host the NHL Winter Classic that’s held every New Year’s Day. The options Kansas City has to fit in this event varies at Arrowhead Stadium or Kauffman Stadium. If Kansas City did earn the right to host the Winter Classic, it would most likely be held at Arrowhead Stadium though due to the size of 72,000. Also, it’s worth mentioning that since Arrowhead is the loudest stadium in the world, the camaraderie surrounding the event would be monstrous.
Hockey is a popular within the KC Area
The Missouri Mavericks in the ECHL bring in an average attendance of 5,068 per night, in an arena that holds 5,800 people, which is 87.4% capacity. Since 2011, the Sprint Center has hosted an NHL preseason game every October and every year the event has sold out.
A Buffalo Sabres fan once told Kansas City Star newspaper columnist, Vahe Gregorian, about hockey in Kansas City saying “that hockey in Kansas City has shown sizeable growth in popularity in recent years.” Lamar Hunt Jr., current owner of the Missouri Mavericks, has been working on increasing youth hockey in the Kansas City area, investing in a top-level amateur team into the metropolitan area.
In my personal opinion, the best chance of an NHL team coming to Kansas City would have to be done by relocation. According to NBC Sports, it was reported that owner of the Calgary Flames, Brian Burke, said that if the city doesn’t get a deal for a new arena in 5-10 years, the Flames will be in contingency of moving somewhere else. The best part about this is that their ECHL team is in fact the Mavericks. This provides Kansas City a huge edge compared to Quebec City or Seattle, who don’t contain any professional hockey teams that are pursuing an NHL franchise. In the long run, Kansas City offers endless accommodations that can make any NHL investor enthused about bringing professional hockey to America’s heartland.