Fertitta Is Still Thinking About A Houston NHL Franchise

He’s still thinking.

Tilman Fertitta wants to bring an NHL franchise to Houston. Fertitta has the ways and means to do so. But there is no NHL franchise on the horizon for Houston and while Fertitta is thinking about getting an NHL franchise, work needs to be done. Fertitta wants to know if an NHL franchise could work in Houston by getting corporate support. Fertitta owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets has the keys to the Rockets arena. That is a far different world from the days when Leslie Alexander owned the Rockets and the arena lease. The NHL entertained bids from three Houston backers including Alexander in 1997 for an expansion franchise. Houston was rejected. In 1998, Alexander tried to buy the Edmonton Oilers but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman found dozens of local Edmonton investors and the team stayed in Alberta.

In 1997, Robert McNair was interested in teaming up with minor league hockey owner Chuck Watson to bring the NHL to Houston. The NHL would pass on Houston. McNair would end up getting a National Football League expansion franchise in 1999, the Houston Texans.  Alexander did not get along well with Watson and Watson helped lead the charge against a 1999 arena referendum which Houston voters rejected 54 to 46 percent. In 2000, Houston voters said yes for an arena and the city gave Alexander a sweetheart lease. Houston was forgotten by the NHL because of Alexander and his refusal to share the building. According to the lease with Houston, Alexander should have gotten the first shot at an NHL team playing in the building. Houston elected officials wrote a bad lease agreement with Alexander perhaps not understanding how sports operates. Fertitta bought out Alexander and seems to be willing to work with the NHL to bring a team to Houston if Houston’s business leaders cooperate financially.