Though a recent report sounds dubious, there is no mistaking that the Missouri city can host a team. But a lot of hurdles and work stand in the way
It has been bandied about as an NHL destination before, but Kansas City is in the rumor bin right now because of the second-best league on the planet, the AHL. The initial clamor came from NHL.com’s Lou Korac, who heard from a source that Lamar Hunt Jr. planned on bringing a St. Louis Blues AHL affiliate to the Sprint Center, a state-of-the-art facility in Kansas City that has not housed a major sports franchise since it was built in 2007.
The story has already been shot down by some of the folks involved, but what pricked my ears up was the claim that a USHL team would also be part of the package. This struck me as odd because the junior circuit and the AHL play identical schedules, with the vast majority of games on weekends. How could one building host both teams, without extensive schedule-juggling? And would a city with no teams all of a sudden embrace two at the same time?
From what I’m hearing, Kansas City is indeed a great spot for a USHL franchise, because it fits the circuit’s geographic footprint and is a good-sized market to capture. But an appropriate building needs to be sorted out and frankly, the Sprint Center is probably too big. Plus, the USHL is a conservative outfit that doesn’t want to rush into a market before all due diligence is finished. And there has never been any talk of a USHL and AHL team coming in together.
That backs up what local reporters learned when they talked to the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks, who play in nearby Independence and are also owned by Hunt (who is best known as the owner of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs). It makes sense for the Blues to want their AHL affiliate in-state – not that their current farm team, the Chicago Wolves, are that far away – but it seems like all speculation is premature.
It will be interesting to see how the minor league world is shaken up with Vegas joining the NHL next season, but I can’t see Kansas City hosting an AHL squad and a USHL franchise at the same time, especially in the same rink.
Kansas City, of course, had NHL hockey briefly in the 1970s with the Scouts, who then became the Colorado Rockies and then the New Jersey Devils.