Salt Lake City leads expansion race but is NHL ready for Atlanta?

Salt Lake City is reported to be the leading candidate if the NHL expands or the Coyotes relocate but if the league wants to bring a team to Atlanta, it must learn lessons from the Thrashers era and from the Braves.

Video Transcript

ARUN SRINIVASAN: I really like Atlanta's idea. But I think there has to be a crucial point made, that it has to be in the actual city center of Atlanta.


ARUN SRINIVASAN: What the Atlanta Braves have done is that they've moved-- they've built three stadiums in my lifetime. I'm 34 years old, and the Braves have played three different venues.

The ownership group of that franchise has expertly sort of wielded money from the suburbs of Georgia. They've pushed their new stadium. "Defector" had this really good piece when the Braves opened their last stadium about how the stadium is so inaccessible that it's in some suburb in Cobb County, Georgia. The actual people in the city center of Atlanta can't access the team. That has to be crucial.

If hockey in Atlanta is going to work again, they have to engage with their large Black population. They can't just say nah, here come the white boys. We're going to try to make it work again. It's going to be Thrashers 2.0.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: How are you going to be in Atlanta and not involve Black people?

ARUN SRINIVASAN: How are you-- exactly.


ARUN SRINIVASAN: I think the Thrashers failed to do that last time around. I think people aren't idiots. And I think that there has been such distaste between, again, like the Braves, who had-- who won the World Series in 2021, probably are going to win the World Series this year, are at least the favorite right now or one of them. Like, the fact that the Braves have become so disenfranchised from this actual city center itself is a sore spot in the state of Georgia.

If hockey is going to work in Atlanta I'm all for. But it has to be in the city center proper or else it's a non-starter.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK. What about Salt Lake City? I mean, it seems like a lot of people are talking about Ryan Smith, the owner, potential owner of anything going on in Salt Lake City. And a lot of people seem to be impressed with him. But also what, they have-- Utah's the Jazz, but like, I don't really know anything about Salt Lake City.

I'm willing to give it a chance. It just-- it doesn't-- like, I don't have like a point where I look at the place and it's like, oh, this is cool. Like, I don't have a reference point. And maybe that's my ignorance.

But like, I don't have-- I'm sure if they have the infrastructure, if they can make it work, awesome. Great. All for the NHL expanding itself and making it itself into a more profitable sport or a more profitable entity. Houston-- we'll have to touch up on Houston, too, at some point. But like Salt Lake City, I'm like, OK. All right.

OMAR: Yeah, same [? BI. ?] It's kind of just like an OK. I think when it comes to those two options, it's like, that'd be cool, I think. Of all of them, as Arun mentioned, Atlanta probably sticks out the most to me.

But I think when it comes to expansion overall, I love the chaos that expansion drafts bring. So I think that is what I'd be looking forward to and just seeing like-- and it sucks that like-- it's so funny how NHL teams will learn from things we don't want them to learn from. You know what I mean?

So like, if there's a mistake that they should learn from, they don't. But if there's a mistake that's like, oh no, it's OK, you can make this mistake, they all pony up on. So like the first year where they introduced three-on-three overtime and it was sick and it was nuts, and then coaches were like, OK, well, let's put some structure into it so now it sucks, like that--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: RIP three-on-three.

OMAR: That first expansion draft where teams were just doing nonsense. Here's-- we're going to give you a Marchessault to take Reilly Smith. Or we're going to give you William Karlsson. Like, all these dumb trades that ended up making Vegas a powerhouse.

Like, we didn't see that much with Seattle because teams learned, oh, you know, I don't want to make that same mistake. But the expansion drafts and all the rules and stuff that-- and all the situations and the teams that are in a position where like, oh, they'll be really screwed by the expansion draft. Or it's like, oh no, they'll be all right from the expansion draft. So I think that's something that I'd be looking forward to the most.

And I wonder if the league does-- can they expand two times in one year? That would be cool. I mean, interesting.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I can't think of any rule that says they can't. I don't know offhand. I mean, unless they can't pay the expansion fee.

OMAR: No. So I think that I'm looking most forward to. But what I'm definitely not looking forward to is all the "what about us" discussions that will come up as always. Like every time the expansion comes up, you have the old Nordiques fans say, hey, what about us? What about Quebec City? Halifax is still coming.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I think they have every right to be like, what about us? Like, the market exists.

OMAR: Absolutely.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: It's a slam dunk if they put a team back there. Centre Vidéotron is there. Like, they could do it.

OMAR: They could.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: They could do it.

OMAR: But let's just be real. Gary doesn't want it.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Gary don't want it.

OMAR: Gary don't want it.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: At least not right away.

OMAR: I don't know. I don't think Gary wants it.