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  1. #1

    Lightbulb Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    So, Im not sure where I once heard this, but sometime during the early planning stages for the Ford Center (now Chesapeake), that the buildings intended use was to lure an NHL Expansion team, and that the team we were hoping to get, but lost out on eventually was won by Nashville and became the Predators. Can anyone here validate this as being fact or not? Did OKC express interest in gaining a hockey team and put forth a bid to the NHL for an expansion team during that specific round of expansions?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    Yes, that is true. Not sure about the timing but what you wrote sounds correct. The OKC Blazers were the big ticket in town, we were building the arena and the NHL was expanding. Mayor Norick assembled a potential ownership team, including Mr. Gaylord, and made an official presentation to the league. The OKC bid wasn’t approved, with expansions teams instead going to Nashville and Columbus.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    IMO, it's rather unfortunate that OKC ended up with an NBA team as opposed to an NHL team. Much more parity in the NHL. Once the Westbrook/George era is over, the Thunder seem very likely to fade into irrelevancy for an extended period of time a la other small-market NBA teams such as the Kings, Pelicans, and Grizzlies.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    Yes, OKC was trying to get an NHL team as described. Son of Mayor Norick, Lance Norick was driving the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at that time, and had the NHL logo as a primary sponsor for several races that year, as part of the expansion effort.

    They Gaylord money was actually the main support for both the OKC and Nashville efforts. This was during the time that the Gaylord’s owned The Grand Old Opry, Opryland, The Nashville Network, and CMT. They were very quiet in the support of both bids, and I am convinced the OKC team was going to be named the RedHawks. They took the RedHawks investment and placed it on the 89ers, who they owned and were moving from the Fairgrounds to the new Bricktown Ballpark.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    Quote Originally Posted by SEMIweather View Post
    IMO, it's rather unfortunate that OKC ended up with an NBA team as opposed to an NHL team. Much more parity in the NHL. Once the Westbrook/George era is over, the Thunder seem very likely to fade into irrelevancy for an extended period of time a la other small-market NBA teams such as the Kings, Pelicans, and Grizzlies.
    People thought that when KD and Harden were out of the picture. Not saying it won't happen, but it far from a certainty.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    OKC in 1997 was trying to get an NHL franchise, it wasn't the Predators. The NHL did expand into St. Paul & Columbus for 2000.

    Columbus was the final franchise that beat out Oklahoma City & Houston. Nation Wide Insurance of Columbus was the corporation that paid millions to get a franchise into Ohio's capital city with a lucrative & generous arena naming rights deal.

    Then Mayor Ron Norick & Clay Bennett (potential owners) were told to get a press conference ready for Monday following the weekend selection of the final expansion franchise. We had the rug pulled out from underneath us in the final selection in which the committee favored OKC. The Oklahoma City franchise were to be called the Oklahoma Redhawks--eventual name given to our PCL franchise once The Brick opened.

    Columbus had defeated two previous referendums to build an arena, also tied to a soccer stadium; only to be rescued by Nation Wide Insurance.

    Gary Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors & Expansion committee didn't think Oklahoma City could build a viable NHL arena with $89 million back in 1997; therefore Columbus was awarded the final expansion franchise.

    IMO, Tulsa's BOK Center (17,096 ice hockey capacity) would be ripe for an NHL franchise which would draw support from OKC & Wichita.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    During the expansion era OKC was competing in, the cities awarded franchises were: Columbus Ohio, Nashville Tennessee, St. Paul Minnesota and Atlanta Georgia. Gaylord money funded both the Nashville and Oklahoma City applications.

    It is important to remember that during the 1980s-1990s the Gaylord money tried to buy the Texas Rangers from Eddie Chiles (rejected because MLB was afraid Gaylord would make another “Super Station” team by putting the games on Dallas channel 39, which was on cable systems all over the south central U.S.) and they were the majority owner of the San Antonio Spurs. That allowed Clay Bennett to be the Spurs representative at the NBA Board of Governors, which established his relationship with Commissioner David Stern and the other owners. And the rest is history

  8. #8

    Default Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    OKC had a downtown pep rally possibly in 1994 where there was a season ticket drive.

    There was even 1 NHL game played in OKC in 1992. https://newsok.com/article/2403864/c...play-on-dec-13

  9. #9

    Default Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    Things worked out SO MUCH BETTER with us getting the Thunder. lol. Seemed like a real downer at the time but it was a true "unanswered prayer" thing that happened for OKC.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    Also throwing this out there, it's not unique to small market teams in terms of long term irrelevancy. Lakers haven't been relevant talent wise for 5-7 years. Knicks and Bulls are even worse off.

  11. #11

    Thunder Re: Late 90s OKC NHL Expansion potential

    Remember Brad Lund; can't help but recall his remark about OKC: "Oklahoma City is a Blazer town; not a hockey town."

    The long term viability of the NBA vs. the NHL IMO was better for our city; we had to make $100 million in arena upgrades which included a $10 million practice facility. I don't think Oklahoma City could have survived five losing seasons of ice hockey vs NBA basketball. Sure Dallas, Denver & St. Louis would have been regional rivals.

    We had a better fit in the NBA with regional rivals Dallas, Denver, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans & San Antonio Since 2010; the Thunder ended the 2018-19 season with 382 consecutive sellouts; third best in the NBA behind Mavericks & Heat, 1st among NBA small markets under 2 million MSA (Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Salt Lake City).

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