Hampton Roads TV Market Was Ultimately Determined To Be Too Small

Published on December 12th, 2023 1:47 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

The NHL expansion strategy in the 1990s. In the 1990s, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league were determined to make the league popular in the United States.

A key cog in this strategy was awarding expansion franchises to non-traditional markets - markets such as Atlanta, Columbus and Nashville, to name a few.

When the NHL started soliciting interest for US-based expansion franchises in the 1990s, Hampton Roads put their hat into the ring as well.

In fact, the team had a name (Rhinos) and color scheme (teal, purple and blue).

The team also had a deep-pocketed backer, as George Shinn also owned the NBA's Charlotte Hornets.

Hampton Roads were one of nine potential expansion franchises in 1997.


The Rhinos made a strong pitch to the expansion committee.

Hampton Roads was based in Virginia, and included cities such as Norfolk and Newport News.

The team made a strong pitch that included several strong selling points, including the team's proximity to major population areas in the United States, and the deep-pocketed owner who would be backing the team.

Hampton Roads was certainly considered a contender as an expansion franchise, though the NHL ultimately passed.

The reason?

The region's small TV market.

Gary Bettman was desperate to enter larger TV markets in the United States, as his ultimate vision was a league that was extremely popular in the USA.

Remember: when Michael Jordan retired, there was real talk that the NHL had the potential to surpass the NBA in popularity in the United States.

Hampton Roads was ultimately decided to be too "small" of a market, and they were passed up.

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