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Should NHL expand to Houston? What about Honolulu?When the ratings for the Stanley Cup Final are released each postseason, it's always intriguing to see which markets without NHL teams are watching championship hockey — and, in some cases, out-rating current League markets.

For example: Fort Myers (Fla.), Richmond (Va.), Sacramento, Las Vegas, Greensboro/Winston-Salem (NC) and Baltimore out-rated or tied the ratings from Tampa Bay, which was the 10th-place market for Game 1 of the 2011 Final between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. And all of the markets mentioned here posted higher ratings than New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

There are mitigating factors — market size, proximity to teams that were in the postseason, transplants from other NHL markets — but one can glean that there is actual interest in NHL hockey from these random locales.

Does that mean they could support NHL franchises?

The Business Journals attempted to quantify this in a recent study of 58 U.S. and Canadian markets that don't have NHL franchises, focusing on the income base for each market and taking into account the competition from other sports options in the area.

Like any study, the methodology and context can be debated; but the results paint a positive picture for those who believe Houston could be a viable NHL market … and a more pessimistic one for Quebec City.

The methodology, from the Biz Journals:

We used team revenue data and average ticket prices to calculate the amount of TPI needed to adequately support a team in each league. Minimum income bases were estimated to be $85.4 billion for MLB, $37.6 billion for the NHL, $36.7 billion for the NFL, $34.2 billion for the NBA, and $15.4 billion for MLS.

We then calculated each area's available personal income (API) by subtracting the TPI needed to support the market's existing teams. Philadelphia, for example, has TPI of $281.5 billion. But its five existing franchises (one in each sport), need a base of $209.3 billion, resulting in API of $72.2 billion.

Via the Business Journal, the Top 10 markets that could support NHL teams through its income base:

Should NHL expand to Houston? What about Honolulu?

Bridgeport-Stamford, here we come!

There's a total of 22 cities that achieve a score of 100 in the study; just outside of the top 10, in order of local income, they are Atlanta …

… OK, maybe we should pause here for a moment.

Yes, according to these metrics, Atlanta is the 11th-best market from a local income perspective to support an NHL team. The same Atlanta that just saw their NHL leave after a decade to become Winnipeg Jets 2.0. So yes, having a stout income base should be paramount for NHL expansion or relocation; Atlanta is a reminder that it won't matter if your shiny new team (a) is mismanaged and (b) fails to connect with more than a niche audience of fans and (c) blows.

We continue … in order of local income, they are Atlanta, Louisville, Birmingham (Ala.), San Antonio, Honolulu, Rochester (NY), New Haven (Conn.), Orlando, Portland (Ore.), Seattle , Tulsa and Oxnard-Thousand Oaks (Calf.).

"With the first pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks Bull Ferns select …"

Where does Quebec City fall? From author G. Scott Thomas:

Twenty-two earned perfect scores on the 100-point scale, indicating that they have the financial strength necessary to support an NHL team.

Other factors would be considered, of course, such as an area's passion for hockey. Canada has that quality in abundance, yet none of its markets did better than 80 points on the financial scale, a borderline score shared by Hamilton, Ont., and Quebec City.

Quebec City was No. 31 on the list, with a capacity index rating of 80 and an available personal income of $30.2 billion. Which the study considers to be "borderline." And less "viable" than the capital of Hawaii.

This study is going to be cherished by some U.S. markets that are desirous for the NHL, like Houston or Las Vegas or the "Remember The Whale!" crowd.

As a study of financial status of these markets circa 2010, it's a nice glimpse. As a measure of a market's viability for hockey, without factors like the current hockey culture and media outlets and corporate revenues and the potential for local ownership and facilities to support a team … well, like we said, it's a nice study of financial status circa 2010.

Thing is, when you do measure those factors, Houston fares quite well, including an arena that seats 17,800 for hockey. We still think Quebec City is next for relocation or expansion ... but Houston's worth further, and more nuanced, study.

Thanks to Wayne from 'Bama for the link.

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