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Houston Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta Eyes Bringing NHL Franchise to City

Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, is reportedly in active discussions with the National Hockey League (NHL) about potentially bringing a professional hockey team to the city.

Fertitta, a Galveston native and prominent figure in the hospitality industry who also owns Landry’s Inc. and Golden Nugget casinos, revealed to Bloomberg News that talks with the NHL have recently intensified. His ambitious plan involves establishing an NHL team that would play in downtown Houston, alongside the Rockets and the MLB’s Houston Astros.

“We are talking to the NHL, but it’s got to be good for both of us,” Fertitta stated, as reported by Bloomberg News on Wednesday. “We just know that when there’s a concert downtown, how it activates downtown, we know what the Astros do for downtown, we know what even soccer does for downtown.”

Requests for comment from Fertitta and his affiliated companies, as well as from the NHL and the office of Houston Mayor John Whitmire, were not immediately returned on Wednesday afternoon.

While Fertitta’s aspirations for an NHL team in Houston gather momentum, the city’s previous mayor, Sylvester Turner, expressed support for the idea last spring. Turner’s spokesperson emphasized Houston’s status as a “sports town,” noting the positive impact professional sports franchises have on civic pride and enthusiasm.

Although Houston has never hosted an NHL franchise, it boasts a history of professional hockey with the Houston Aeros. The first iteration of the Aeros, competing in the former World Hockey Association from 1972 to 1978 under the leadership of hockey legend Gordie Howe, clinched two league championships. Subsequently, a minor league version of the Aeros operated in the International Hockey League and American Hockey League from 1994 to 2013.

Fertitta revealed to Bloomberg News that his interest in bringing an NHL team to Houston dates back to his acquisition of the Rockets seven years ago. He expressed willingness to explore both the possibility of securing an expansion franchise and acquiring an existing team to relocate to Houston, underscoring his commitment to broadening the city’s sports landscape.