NHL polling fans on Seattle, Las Vegas as hockey cities

The National Hockey League surveys thousands of its fans through the NHL Fan Faceoff program, asking all manner of questions about the game, fan behavior and the direction of the League.

In the latest survey, two questions caught the eyes of a few of our readers; ones that specifically ask about eight cities (s/t Matt C.):

And then the follow up question, via reader Dan K.: “If you were in those cities, and if they had an NBA or NHL team, would you go and see a game there?”

Now, the common thread is that none of these cities currently have either an NHL or NBA team. In other words, if the NHL theoritically expanded to any of them, they'd be "first in market," which is a significant advantage to whoever becomes the city's only pro arena team. (See: Oklahoma City, and a blown opportunity for the NHL years ago.)

I used to work in market research. The setup of these questions smacks of “obscuring the obvious,” which is to poll specifically about Seattle, Las Vegas and likely Kitchener. The NHL isn’t going back to Hartford (sorry, Whale faithful). Nor do I believe San Diego is moving up in rankings ahead of other U.S. destinations.

But these questions are in keeping with a central theme for one of the U.S. expansion candidates: Las Vegas.

The notion in NHL circles is that a Sin City franchise is going to be heavily dependent on the tourism population, rather than a booming local fan base. Obviously, if many hockey fans are going to Las Vegas and would see an NHL game there while visiting, it would support that gambit.

The omission of Quebec City is a curious one, given the inclusion of two other Canadian cities. I’m not sure what to read into that, to be honest.

Keep in mind the NHL is always polling its fans and the quasi-expansion question’s probably come up before. But some are going to read this as another inevitable sign that the League is looking to expand, and looking at two U.S. markets as potential sites.