Does upcoming Rockets sale make room for hockey in Houston?

I’ve spent more time considering the possibility of an NHL team playing in Houston than I should probably admit. Living in Houston now, while being an almost lifelong Dallas Stars fan, makes the hockey cravings hard to quench. The news of Leslie Alexander putting the Houston Rockets up for sale stirs my mind up about hockey coming here again, as counterintuitive as it sounds.

I’m not objectively proud of many things I’ve written, but this story about Houston hockey during the round of NHL expansion from a couple years ago is one I’m proud of.

One thing that became crystal clear to me when writing it was how important Alexander is to the possibility of NHL hockey in Houston.

Or, soon, was to that possibility.

If you want a more detailed account of why this is, I would strongly encourage you to click that link, but the Rockets had it written into their lease that an NHL team using Toyota Center would be their tenant.

Either a prospective owner was going to pay an exorbitant amount of money to bring a team to Houston, or Alexander would own them.

With Alexander putting the Rockets up for sale, you start to wonder about the possibilities for hockey in Houston again. By all accounts, Alexander stopped trying to bring a team to the city after the NHL jerked him around constantly for a decade. He’s going to make a ton of money off of the Rockets, but the chances of a 74-year-old man, who isn’t a native, investing in hockey are slim to none.

New owners, when they get put in place, could theoretically look to jump into the NHL with the sweetheart Toyota Center lease they would then possess. These new owners would need some serious cash though. Expansion prices in the NHL are around $500 million, and the sale price for a team to be relocated would probably be $300-400 million. Not exactly pocket change on top of a potential $2-3 billion price tag for the Rockets.

The most likely route would be an outside ownership group that wanted to bring a team to Houston. With Alexander out of the way, that seems significantly more likely. New hockey owners would need to work out financial terms with whoever ends up purchasing the Rockets. You have to think that wouldn’t be an insurmountable task, given how much money they’d be shelling out for the Rockets.

With Las Vegas entering the league this season, the NHL jumps up to the ugly number of 31 franchises. The one imbalanced division is the Central. Presumably, the NHL is holding a spot open for Seattle or Quebec City, but the scheduling headaches won’t really go away until another team is shifted to the Central. Quebec would belong out east with Montreal. Seattle would belong in the Pacific, which would probably shift Arizona into the Central and screw them over.

Gross.

All of these problems are solved with an NHL team taking up residence at Toyota Center. The chance of that happening is far from likely, but the main man upping the degree of difficulty is on the way out. Momentum for that move ticks up ever so slightly with Alexander moving on for the eternal optimists hoping to see more southern hockey.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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