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Why doesn’t Houston have an NHL team? Will it ever? 

Why doesn’t Houston have an NHL team Will it ever

Many professional sports teams call Houston home. Thousands of sports lovers travel to Houston to attend Astros, Rockets, Texans, and Dynamo games.

Unfortunately, lovers of hockey in Houston are stuck watching hockey games inside their apartments. Why? 

Houston doesn’t have an NHL hockey team. Today, we’ll explain why.

Why doesn’t Houston have an NHL team? 

Why doesn’t Houston have an NHL team

Houston’s former hockey team, the Houston Aeros, lost its name and logo after the team moved to Iowa. Thus, the Houston Aeros became the Iowa Wild.

This relocation left Houston without any possible NHL team. 

History of Houston and the NHL 

History of Houston and the NHL

Despite having success with minor league hockey throughout the years, Houston has not really had its own team in the NHL.

In the beginning, the NHL did not hold any interest in expanding to Houston. However, the World Hockey Association—created in 1972—had twelve teams, and one was in Texas. 

These were the Dayton Arrows. But things changed: what originally was the Dayton Arrows became the Houston Aeros. 

Why? Because the city of Dayton did not have a suitable hockey rink and Houston did.

So, before the hockey season began, Houston suddenly had its hockey team. 

The Houston Aeros went on to become one of the most successful WHA teams at that time. It was a triumph in itself that they didn’t relocate, some say.

Signing the Howes 

Another great accomplishment for the Aeros came during their second season: they signed Gordie Howe and his sons, Marty and Mark. 

Why was this important? At that time, Howe was one of the greatest NHL players ever.  

As far as career scoring records go, he held numerous records. Howe also led the Aeros to two WHA championships in 1974 and 1975 and a loss in 1976 to the Winnipeg Jets.

Not long after 1976, the NHL leadership changed. The new leader John Ziegler wanted to merge the twelve teams into six instead. 

These six new teams consisted of the three strongest American teams and three Canadian teams. 

Kenneth Schnitzer, the owner of the Houston Aeros, was eager to join the merger more than anything else. A true believer in his team and city, he was determined to see them succeed. 

Houston had the third-highest attendance in the league when the Howes were with the team, and Schnitzer believed that an NHL team would be well-received. 

In the beginning, he approached Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. Due to Hartford being in the NHL market, he thought it would be easy to get support in Houston. 

Despite Schnitzer’s best efforts, Jacobs rejected the Houston Aeros.

Consequently, the Houston Aeros would not play in the 1978-79 season of the World Hockey Association. Their players dispersed among the league’s teams. 

Schnitzer’s Attempts to Save the Aeros

Schnitzer managed to keep the Aeros front office together. In a bold move, he applied for an expansion franchise with the NHL. 

The NHL rejected his application. 

Finally, he offered to purchase one of the failing NHL teams, the Cleveland Barons, and relocate them to Houston. 

In most circumstances, it would have been appropriate for the NHL to pursue this move. Aside from the fact that Schnitzer was an old WHA owner, Houston was another southern city. 

The NHL didn’t see The South as being particularly hospitable to them. Rather than sell the Barons to Schnitzer, the NHL merged them with the North Stars. 

In the end, Schnitzer had to admit defeat and shut down the Houston Aeros front office. 

Second Chances for the Aeros

Another expansion of the NHL took place in the early 1990s. Specific cities received applications for the NHL. 

Interested individuals and investor groups received 50 applications from the league. 

The cities considered were as follows: Ottawa and Hamilton, Miami and Tampa, Anaheim and San Diego, Seattle, Washington, and Houston. 

A league committee member visited all cities and their arenas and gave each city a 45-minute presentation on its case.  

In some cities, arenas did not meet NHL standards, building timelines were uncertain, or they tried to negotiate the price.

It is unclear where the Houston application went wrong. 

Several times during the 1990s, the Edmonton Oilers almost relocated to Houston. The Houston Rockets owner, Leslie Alexander, wanted to buy the Canadian hockey team.

However, a local businessman prevented the sale and ensured the franchise would remain in Canada. A bid on an expansion team was also unsuccessful.

So, for a while, Houston Houston had no hope that a National Hockey League team would ever come to Houston.

Things changed when Tilman Fertitta stepped into the picture. (Fertitta is the current owner of The Houston Rockets.) 

He announced his interest in bringing an NHL team to Houston. 

Unfortunately, though, the pandemic has delayed NHL business. So there is no note of any further NHL expansion into Houston right now.

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