NHL commish: Bigger not always better
If you want a new National Hockey League team, you’ll definitely need a spanking new arena, or at least one that’s been gussied up in a significant way. But that doesn’t mean it need be a super-sized arena, Commissioner Gary Bettman said at the Reuters Global Media Summit.
“While we play to 93 to 94 percent capacity, we’d like to play to 100 percent capacity,” Bettman said. “A 15,000-16,000 seat arena might work better in some markets than a 19,000 seat arena.”
That’s promising news for Quebec City and Winnipeg, who were once homes to the NHL’s Nordiques and Jets respectively, and are said to be on the league’s potential expansion shortlist. Bettman told Reuters that both cities, and “even Southern Ontario” would be given a serious look if the league were to expand.
Smaller venues are becoming common in pro sports: Major League Baseball’s New York Mets and New York Yankees moved into smaller stadiums this year, and the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes have thrived since moving in 1998 to a stadium a third the size of its original home.
But though smaller, cosier arenas would be appropriate for cities of Quebec and Winnipeg’s size (both cities have metro-area populations of about 700,000) any new NHL venue would need to seat at the very least 15,000 fans, if not more, Bettman said.
That tidbit will surely help guide the mayor of Quebec, as he looks into building a new arena to draw an NHL franchise. But Winnipeg’s MTS Center, home of the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, fits 15,015 and may be cutting it close for the NHL’s tastes unless it gets an upgrade.