The Rockets new owner is aggressively working to put Houston on ice

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In his opening press conference as owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, billionaire Tilman Fertitta voiced his desire to bring another team to share the Rockets’ home at the Toyota Center: a National Hockey League franchise.

“I would love to bring an NHL team here,” Fertitta said at the event. “It’s just got to make sense.”

Fertitta, also owner of the Landry’s restaurant chain and Golden Nugget Casinos, reportedly purchased the Rockets from its previous owner, Les Alexander, for an estimated $2.2 billion, which included the Toyota Center in downtown Houston.

“Do I want to see Toyota Center filled up 300 nights a year? Definitely.” Fertitta continued at the press conference. “I would put an NHL team here tomorrow….”

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There is no Bayou City NHL team now or from the past, but related icy sports are a staple in Houston:

The Houston Aeros of the competing World Hockey Association skated across the Sam Houston Coliseum and The Summit from 1972 to 1978, featuring hockey legend Gordie Howe and his two sons, Mark and Marty; the franchise won league titles in 1974 and 1975, but folded in 1978 when the WHA merged with the NHL.

A second incarnation of the Aeros launched in 1994 as part of the International Hockey League, the sport’s top minor league; the team won the Turner Cup, the IHL championship, in 1999, and moved to the American Hockey League in 2001, where they won the Calder Cup, the AHL title, in 2003.

It was relocated to Des Moines, Iowa, in 2013, leaving Houston hockey-less since.

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Thirty-one teams currently play for the NHL, with the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights starting their inaugural season this year.

Investors agree, an odd number of teams, combined with Houston’s TV market size and potential for sales of corporate luxury suites, could make the city an attractive destination for another expansion team.

Speculators believe another NHL opportunity could arise if a current franchise is looking to relocate.

Several teams, including the Arizona Coyotes, the Calgary Flames and the New York Islanders, are reportedly looking for new arena deals.

“We’ll do whatever we can do, but whatever we do is going to make sense,” Fertitta said at the presser. “But, yes, will we be aggressive? Yes, that’s my nature.”

What do you think?

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