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Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly met recently to discuss the viability of an NHL franchise in Houston.
According to Katie Strang of The Athletic, the belief is the meeting took place over the past few weeks, but Bettman declined to comment on it.
In a phone interview with Strang, however, Bettman did address the possibility of an NHL franchise in Houston, saying, “If Houston were to express an interest in having an NHL franchise, under the right circumstances, it’s something we might want to consider.”
Bettman also said the league isn’t looking to relocate any of its teams currently, although the Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes are all in need of new arenas, per Strang.
Fertitta bought the Rockets in September for a record price of $2.2 billion, according to ESPN.com.
The 60-year-old Houston resident and Galveston, Texas, native hasn’t been shy publicly about his desire to own an NHL team as well.
According to Mark Berman of Fox 26, Fertitta commented on the matter in October: “I would love to bring an NHL team here. It’s just got to make sense. It’d be hard to fathom that we can’t support an NHL team here. Zero has happened, but we will start looking at it”
The NHL currently has 31 franchises due to the introduction of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights this season.
That has left it with an imbalanced conference situation, as the Western Conference has 15 teams, while the Eastern Conference has 16.
There is room for another team in the Central Division, making Houston an ideal expansion candidate should the NHL decide to go back to that well in the near future.