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Is Kansas City A Viable Option For The NHL?

Winnipeg, along with the rest of Canada have been screaming for the NHL to return to their country ever since the Jets left Winnipeg the first time to head to Phoenix. Now that the Thrashers have moved, it still leaves the Coyotes on the bubble on relocation. Many locals in Arizona seem to think someone will come forward and save their team, but in all honesty it likely is a pipedream.

Among the cities who seemingly come up every time that there are talks of an NHL franchise relocating is our very own Kansas City. The others you commonly hear are Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, and Quebec City. It appears the NHL wants a team in Seattle, which makes sense as the Pacific Northwest could likely support a second franchise and would give the Vancouver Canucks a natural rival.

The one thing Kansas City definitely has going for them is a new facility that has plenty of seats. The Sprint Center opened in late 2007 and is suitable for 17,752 fans for hockey. 17,000 seems to the the threshold that the NHL seeks for an arena, though Winnipeg proved that is not always the case as the MTS Centre seats just 15,015.

Kansas City would be 22nd out of 30 NHL markets in terms in population, so the market while small, would be big enough to support a team. The biggest burden for Kansas City is finding someone who would financially fund bringing a team to the area. The NHL has taken notice of hockey in Kansas City, by bringing exhibition games to the the Sprint Center in the past and they will be doing so again this fall, when the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Los Angeles Kings. Ironically the Kings are owned by the AEG, the same group which owns the Sprint Center.

While waiting for a potential owner to step forward and show interest in bringing a team to Kansas City, the best thing hockey fans in the area can do is pack the house for these games and show the league there is an interest in the sport. So far there have been mixed reviews as only 11,603 and 9.792 fans showed up for exhibition games in 2008 and 2009. However both of those games were played without full strength squads.

For hockey to continue to be looked at as a viable option in Kansas City, local fans need to vote with their feet and show up on September 27th for the next NHL exhibition.