Are we talking hockey in Houston again?

It appears we are.

Billionaire restaurateur and casino magnate Tilman Fertitta sees a professional hockey team as the next building block for the downtown Houston economy.

The owner of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets and the Golden Nugget casino empire said everything from hotels to restaurants to retail in the core of the fourth-largest city would benefit from hockey’s presence. A National Hockey League franchise is the last remaining major professional sport that doesn’t have a presence in Houston.

“We are talking to the NHL, but it’s got to be good for both of us,” Fertitta said during an interview with Bloomberg News in Houston on Tuesday. “We just know that when there’s a concert downtown, how it activates downtown, we know what the Astros do for downtown, we know what even soccer does for downtown.”

Although Fertitta has been courting the NHL about bringing a team to Houston since he bought the Rockets for $2.2 billion seven years ago, he said discussions have recently turned more serious. Fertitta noted that he’s open to helping bring in either an expansion franchise or acquiring a team from another market.


Outlying suburbs of Houston have reached out to Fertitta about helping them attract an NHL team but he said boosting the downtown district — where he owns restaurants that include Morton’s The Steakhouse, McCormick and Schmick’s and The Palm — has been a goal of his for decades.

See here, here, and here for some background. As you can see at that first link, as recently as one year ago the door appeared to be closed. I suppose a lot can change in a year. The Chron adds on.

Houston is the nation’s largest city without a pro hockey team, with no club having skated at Toyota Center since the American Hockey League’s Aeros moved to Des Moines, Iowa, after the 2012-13 season. The prospect of an NHL franchise in Houston has been bandied about for more than 30 years — the Minnesota North Stars looked at Houston in 1993 before relocating to Dallas, team chairman Jim Lites told the Chronicle in 2018 — with rumblings picking up in recent years.


Last October, Rockets president of business operations Gretchen Sheirr told the Chronicle the ongoing renovations at Toyota Center included “making sure it’s hockey ready” with an “ice machine” needed for it to become an NHL venue.

During a news conference before the recent NHL All-Star Game in Toronto, commissioner Gary Bettman said the league, while not actively engaged in the process of expanding, had received expansion interest from cities including Houston, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Salt Lake City, which he described as the “most aggressive” suitor. Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith has made no secret of his desire to bring the NHL to his state and last month formally requested the NHL “initiate an expansion process.”

As for a potential franchise on the move, the future of the Arizona Coyotes, the subject of relocation rumors for two-plus decades, reportedly will be addressed in “the next few weeks,” per a recent report from Daily Faceoff. Last May, a referendum in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe for an entertainment district that would have included a new arena for the Coyotes was defeated resoundingly.

Since the 2022-23 season, the Coyotes have played at Arizona State’s Mullett Arena, which has an NHL-low capacity of 4,600 and is not seen as a long-term home. Marty Walsh, executive director of the NHL Players Association, recently blasted the Coyotes’ situation, saying that playing at a college arena was “not the way to run a business” and “the players want to play in an NHL arena.”

So who knows. It’s all theoretical until Commissioner Bettman says expansion and/or a franchise’s relocation is happening, and even if one of them does happen Houston is not necessarily first in line. But we are seeking to he at the table. Houston Public Media has more.

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3 Responses to Are we talking hockey in Houston again?

  1. Bill Brooker says:

    We cant pay to fix the streets, we cant pay our firefighters, we cant fix out water system, but we apparently have tons of taxpayer cash to help a billionaire to purchase/operate/promote a hockey team?


    By the way, if taxpayer subsidized sports led to net positive economic growth, Houston should be the richest place on Earth. We already have spent billions of taxpayer dollars on the NFL, MLB, the NBA, the Final Four, several Suoer Bowls, the CFP Playoff, etc. If those events didnt help city/county finances, why should paying taxpayer dollars for the NHL be any different?

    We need functioning roads and water. We dint need Gary Bettman and the NHL

  2. C.L. says:

    @Bill… maybe I missed it – where does it say in this post that the public would somehow be on the hook as a result of Fertita’s desire to have an NHL team in HTX ? This doesn’t appear to be a case of local lemmings being pushed over the financial ledge by the McNair family’s desire to have the citizens pay for his stadium (which they happily did – something I still can’t figure out). I suspect Tillman read those tea leaves a long time ago and realizes he’d meet some pretty stiff oppostion with that type of proposal.

    As far as economic benefits to the City for hosting all these sporting events go, think what a wasteland downtown HTX, Discovery Green, NRG Park, etc., would be without these periodic events – you can’t have a HLSRodeo running year round to generate interest in the City, FFS.

  3. Bill Brooker says:

    The NHL generally requires taxpayer subsidies for their teams.

    The taxpayers (in the form of the HCHSA) appear to be already spending taxpayer dollars to “manufacture” the appearance of broad based support of hockey in Houston with their sponsorship of “Hockey in Houston” day.

    Taking discretionary spending from non-downtown areas of Houston and directing to downtown is certainly useful for the real estate barons that control downtown real estate, but is of zero net value to most others.

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