The NHL still isn’t giving up on Atlanta.
Even after having two different expansion teams leave town, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN Tuesday that the Big Peach may still have a future in professional hockey.
“I think some of the challenges that we’ve seen in the past in Atlanta can be overcome,” Daly said.
The NHL originally moved into Atlanta in 1972 when the Flames played there until 1980 before moving to Calgary.
They gave the city another shot in 1999 with the Thrashers, but by 2011, they had become the Winnipeg Jets.
More than two decades later though, Daly claims conditions in Atlanta make it much more likely a team can stick around there for the long haul.
“I think times have changed pretty dramatically and the market demographics have changed pretty dramatically since the first time we went there and then again in 1999,” he said. “I think a lot of bigger businesses are in Atlanta [now].”
Having expanded twice over the last six years with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 and Seattle Kraken in 2021, Daly indicated that expansion wasn’t imminent, but not impossible in the near-future.
“There are potential markets that may be suitable for NHL hockey, so our policy is really an open-door policy,” Daly said, per ESPN. “If you are interested and have a plan, come see us and certainly we’ll evaluate it from there. If it becomes something our owners are interested in, we can pursue it. Nothing has risen to that level currently, but that could change.”
Daly suggested that a move to the suburbs of Atlanta – like the Braves’ move to Cobb County in 2017 — could make an NHL team in the city more palatable.
“I also think that rink location will be important with any decision to locate a franchise in Atlanta,” Daly said. “I think if you use the Braves as an example, they struggled, as I understand it, attendance-wise for years, even though they had a very successful team on the field. Their latest stadium is in a perfect location and sells out regularly.”