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Rockets owner Fertitta 'working on' bringing NHL team to Houston

Logan Riely / National Basketball Association / Getty

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta remains steadfast in his desire to bring a professional hockey franchise to the city.

"We would like to work to get an NHL team in Houston," he said Wednesday, according to the Houston Chronicle's Greg Rajan. "I'm working on it."

Fertitta's interest in the matter dates back to 2017, around one month after he purchased the Rockets for $2.2 billion. The NBA squad plays at the Toyota Center, a venue with a capacity of 19,000 seats - 17,800 when fitted for a rink.

"I would put an NHL team here tomorrow," Fertitta told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the time. "This one has got to work. But I'd love to have the other dates in the building.

"Do I want to see Toyota Center filled up 300 nights a year? Definitely. We'll do whatever we can do, but whatever we do has to make sense. ... Will we be aggressive? Yes. That's my nature."

Houston has never had an NHL team to call its own. However, it was previously home to the Aeros, who played in the World Hockey Association from 1972-78, the International Hockey League from 1994-2001, and the American Hockey League until 2013.

The Toyota Center was the Aeros' home venue from 2003-2013.

In February, Fertitta told Bloomberg's Shelly Hagan and David Wethe that he was "talking to the NHL," noting that those conversations had recently turned more serious.

Fertitta added that he was open to bringing in an expansion franchise or adding a team from an existing market.

On Wednesday, reports broke that the Arizona Coyotes could move to Utah as soon as next season. The NHL is reportedly drafting two versions of the 2024-25 schedule to accommodate the potential relocation to Salt Lake City.

The Coyotes have been at the center of relocation rumors for years, but the uncertainty has ramped up since they moved to the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena at the start of the 2022-23 season.

The franchise was attempting to construct a new arena in Tempe, Arizona, but residents voted against building a $2.1-billion entertainment district in the area last May. The Coyotes have since pivoted to a plot of land up for auction in North Phoenix, but Scottsdale mayor David Ortega slammed the plans as "not feasible or welcome" on Monday.

The league most recently expanded to Seattle in 2021. Plans to add another expansion franchise don't appear imminent.

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