As the old saying goes, it’s three strikes before you’re out. If that is indeed the case, the Atlanta area has at least one more shot at making an NHL franchise work. However, with something as serious - and costly - as this, two strikes might very well mean you are out of chances.
The Atlanta area has had teams come and go twice, with the Flames joining the league in 1972 before relocating to Calgary in 1980 and the Atlanta Thrashers joining the league in 1999 as an expansion team. The Thrashers had one of the most unsuccessful NHL runs before moving to Winnipeg in 2011 after losing $130 million from 2005 until that date.
Despite these failures, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed at the March General Manager’s meetings that an Atlanta group has reached out about potential expansion. Bettman also confirmed that the NHL wasn’t looking to expand at this time, but if it is to happen, or should a current team relocate, Atlanta is now on the radar as a potential location. Perhaps that could bolster the march to Georgia sports betting?
With all of this smoke around potential NHL expansion and relocation, BetGeorgia.com decided to develop hypothetical odds of where the next NHL franchise could be.
Odds Of Next NHL Franchise (Expansion or Relocation)
So You're Saying There's A Chance?
Atlanta checks in with a 22.2% chance of being the next NHL team if the NHL decides to take that step, second behind the city of Houston at 25% and tied with Quebec City in Canada. This gives them hypothetical odds of +350 to be the next NHL location. You won't find those odds on Georgia sports betting apps, but there's a better chance Atlanta gets a third chance than people think.
A large part of the desire to make Atlanta work has to be the size of the city, as they are the biggest media market in the United States that doesn’t currently have an NHL team. Potential arena locations for a new team are much stronger than what was the case in 1999, giving Atlanta another check in their favor.
The NHL has already expanded twice in the past few years, adding the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 and the Seattle Kraken in 2021. The expansion fees for both were massive, with Vegas paying $500 million to join the league and Seattle paying $650 million.
Compare this to the Atlanta Thrashers' 2000 expansion fee of $80 million and you can see why a third try would have to be much more successful than the first two. But with the higher fees also came a more competitive roster via the expansion draft, and that has already paid off for both of those teams. The Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final in their first year and the Kraken made the playoffs in their second season of competition this year.
The Thrashers didn’t ice a competitive roster for years and only made the playoffs once during their time in Atlanta, never winning a playoff game.
Expansion has come in stages in the NHL. There was the doubling of the league in 1967 from six to 12 teams, the 1979 WHA absorption when they added four teams, the two-year stretch from 1992-93 where four teams were added and the 1998-2000 stretch where they also added four teams, including the Thrashers.
With the NHL now tied with the NFL for the league with the most teams, it does seem unlikely that they would lead the charge and become the first league to go beyond that number, but crazier things have happened. If it does happen, there are no guarantees that Atlanta gets a team, but their willingness to try again certainly puts them in the conversation.