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Milwaukee has a plan to build a new arena -- could an NHL team move in?


USA, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, City view

Getty Images/Tetra images RF

When the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the 2014 playoffs, the city of Milwaukee was among NBCSN’s top 10 TV markets.

This was no huge surprise. Hockey is a popular sport in Wisconsin, and there are plenty of Blackhawks fans in Milwaukee, which is located less than 100 miles north of Chicago.

But it does make one wonder -- could Milwaukee support an NHL team of its own?

According to Wikipedia, the Milwaukee metro area is the 33rd-largest in the United States, with a population around 2 million. And according to the United States of Hockey blog, “Wisconsin has the highest hockey-playing population of any state without an NHL team.”

Home to the IHL/AHL Admirals since the 1970s, there’s been talk in the past about Milwaukee becoming a major-league hockey market. Until recently, though, the idea was a non-starter, given the lack of suitable NHL arena.

Well, yesterday, a funding plan was announced to build a new arena for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. If the plan is approved, it means the Bucks will not be forced to move.

It also means:

1. The city of Seattle won’t get the Bucks, just like it didn’t get the Sacramento Kings. This is important because, as it stands, Seattle only has plans to build a new arena if it’s guaranteed to get a basketball team; it won’t build one just for a hockey team. That may change, but for now, that’s the deal. This past weekend in Columbus, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called Seattle’s arena situation “uncertain at best.” The NHL will not expand to Seattle unless there’s a new arena.

2. Speculation about an NHL team joining the Bucks in their new digs. Milwaukee, after all, could be put in the Western Conference, and it’s Western Conference teams the NHL needs. Two of them, specifically -- one in Las Vegas (probably) and one somewhere else.

Questions remain, of course. What would the Blackhawks think of another franchise moving into their territory? Who would own the team? Does the NHL have any interest whatsoever in putting a franchise in Milwaukee, or will it hold out for Seattle?

Some food for thought anyway. We did a post like this for Portland, Oregon, so we figured, why not one for Milwaukee?

PS -- Did you know Milwaukee is the only major American city to have elected three socialist mayors?