Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta says he hasn’t given up on his dream to bring an NHL team to Houston.
“There’s not a month that goes by that we don’t have some type of talks about the NHL,” he said in a radio interview with Houston Matters on Monday. “And it’s definitely something that one day I look forward to bringing to Houston, Texas.”
Fertitta has been very public about his interest in owning an NHL team since 2017, when he bought the Rockets from Leslie Alexander for $2.2 billion. While that interest hasn’t gone away, Fertitta acknowledged Monday that there are challenges with bringing a team to a southern city in the U.S.
“The studies we have done, it’s a little harder below the Mason-Dixon Line. It’s a little harder to put butts in the seats,” Fertitta said. “And we’ve got to find the right team, and then we have got to just make sure that we can put the butts in the seats.”
In May, commissioner Gary Bettman said that there were no immediate plans to bring a team to Houston. But he added that if a team ever were to come to the city, Fertitta would be involved, since the NHL club would likely have to share the Toyota Center with the Rockets.
“I don’t think there’s anything active right now with the Rockets’ ownership in terms of bringing an NHL team to Houston,” Bettman told the Houston Chronicle. “Houston’s now the fourth-largest city in the United States. If there were ever to be a team there, unless there’s a new arena, Mr. Fertitta would control the entry point. But as of right now, there’s nothing for anybody to focus on.”
The NHL awarded a 32nd expansion franchise to Seattle last December after 32,000 season ticket deposits were placed in the less than 24 hours. The Seattle ownership group — which includes billionaire David Bonderman and movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer — agreed to pay a $650-million expansion fee to the NHL.
When asked Monday if a team in Houston would be a new expansion team or relocated from another city, Fertitta said he didn’t know but he would be open to either option.