Hockey is a popular sport played across North America, and fans are always excited to keep up with their favorite teams. For many people residing in Houston, Texas, the question that comes to mind is whether or not their city has a professional hockey team.
Whether you’re a die-hard sports fan or just curious about what’s happening on the ice rinks of Houston, this article will provide you with everything you need to know about the local hockey scene. We’ll explore the history of hockey in Houston, current developments, and where you can watch live games.
“Houston may be known for its oil and gas industry, but there’s more to this vibrant city than meets the eye. Let’s take a deep dive into the world of hockey and see what it has to offer.”
If you want to find out whether the fast-paced action of hockey is being played in your backyard or if you’re planning to visit Houston and hoping to catch some live hockey matches, then stay tuned as we unravel the mysteries surrounding hockey culture in Houston.
Join us as we venture through the fascinating journey of discovering the answer to one simple question – does Houston have a hockey team? You might be surprised by what we uncover!
Exploring the Hockey Scene in Houston
The Houston Aeros: A Legacy of Hockey
The Houston Aeros played in the World Hockey Association from 1972 until the league disbanded in 1979. The team then joined the Central Hockey League, where they played for over a decade until eventually being absorbed into the International Hockey League.
The Aeros became a significant part of Houston’s hockey history and contributed to the growth of the sport in the city. In their eight seasons in the WHA, the Aeros made five playoff appearances and won two championships.
“The team was very successful on the ice, but also had a unique brand that resonated with fans,” said Jim Neveau, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?”. “They were known for their colorful jerseys and characters like ‘Hockey Hound’, who was similar to the San Diego Chicken.”
A Growing Hockey Community in Houston
Despite losing its professional team, hockey continues to thrive in Houston at the youth and amateur levels. There are now several amateur hockey teams in the area, including the Texas Jr. Brahmas and the Houston Fighting Saints Junior A club.
In addition to these teams, there is also an active adult recreational league in Houston called the Greater Houston Hockey League (GHHL). The GHHL has been growing steadily over the last few years, with more than 200 players participating across six divisions.
“We’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in the local hockey scene recently,” said GHHL commissioner Brian Bailey. “There are more kids learning to play the sport and a lot of adults who are discovering it for the first time.”
The Future of Hockey in Houston
While Houston does not currently have a professional hockey team, there have been rumors of the city being considered for an expansion franchise. In 2018, the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated that Houston was on a shortlist of cities being considered for a new team.
Since then, no further developments have been announced regarding a potential team in Houston. Despite this, many hockey enthusiasts remain hopeful and believe that the growth of the sport at the youth and amateur levels will help convince the NHL to expand to Texas’ largest city in the future.
“Houston is a huge market with a lot of passionate sports fans,” said Neveau. “There’s no reason why hockey can’t find success here if given the chance.”
- Key Takeaways:
- The Houston Aeros played in the WHA from 1972-1979 and the Central Hockey League until 1993
- Despite not having a pro team, there are multiple amateur teams in Houston like the Jr. Brahmas and GHHL
- Houston has been rumored as a possible location for NHL expansion, but nothing has been officially announced yet
The History of Hockey in Houston
Hockey is not the first sport that comes to mind when someone thinks about Houston. However, hockey has a rich history in Houston dating back to the early 1970s.
Early Hockey Teams in Houston
The first professional hockey team in Houston was the Houston Aeros. The team was founded in 1972 and played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) until 1978. The team won two Avco Cup Championships during their six-year span in the WHA.
After the folding of the WHA, the Aeros joined the Central Hockey League (CHL) from 1979 to 1992. During this time, the team saw success by winning four CHL championships.
In 2001, the Houston Aeros were revived as an American Hockey League (AHL) franchise. They stayed in the AHL until 2013 when they were relocated to Iowa due to lease issues with their home arena.
Ice Rinks in Houston: A Historical Overview
One might assume that ice rinks would be scarce in a hot and humid city like Houston, but there have been several throughout the years. One of the earliest was the Polar Ice House which opened in 1975 and later became the Memorial City Mall Ice Rink.
Another notable rink was the Compaq Center, formerly known as The Summit, which served as the home for the Houston Aeros from 1975-1998. The rink also served as the venue for other sports and entertainment events in Houston.
The Toyota Center, now home to the NBA’s Houston Rockets, was constructed in 2003 and is another facility that has hosted hockey games. It served as the venue for the Aeros during their AHL years.
“For hockey to work in Houston, it’s no different than any other successful minor-league franchise. You have to be affordable, quality entertainment for the entire family.” -Former Aeros CEO Harris Kempner
Despite the city’s lack of natural frozen ponds and consistently cold temperatures, Houston has shown a love for hockey throughout the years. While there is currently no professional hockey team in Houston, many hope that one will return in the future.
Famous Houston Hockey Players
Houston, Texas may not be known as a hockey town, but it has actually been home to several talented players who have made an impact in the NHL. In this article, we will explore some of the most famous Houston-born or Houston-raised hockey players.
Pat Verbeek: The Houston Hero
Pat Verbeek was born in Sarnia, Ontario but moved with his family to Houston when he was just three years old. He started playing youth hockey in the Houston area and eventually became one of the best players in Houston’s history.
Verbeek played over 20 seasons in the NHL for several teams including the New Jersey Devils, Hartford Whalers, and Detroit Red Wings. He was known as a gritty player who could score goals and make plays for his team. Verbeek retired from professional hockey in 2002 after scoring a total of 1,063 points (in 1,424 games) throughout his career.
“People might say I don’t look like a hockey player, but that doesn’t bother me.” – Pat Verbeek
David Emma: A Houstonian’s Rise to Fame
David Emma was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, but grew up in Houston where he played high school hockey at St. Thomas High School. After graduation, Emma played college hockey at Boston College where he won the Hobey Baker Award, which is given annually to the top men’s ice hockey player in the NCAA Division I.
Emma went on to play professionally in the AHL, IHL, and NHL for several seasons. He scored a total of 85 points (in 125 games) during his time in the NHL.
“I feel very strongly about my roots in Houston and I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am without the help of all my coaches, teammates and family.” – David Emma
Mike Modano: A Texan Turned Star
Mike Modano was born in Livonia, Michigan but grew up in Westland, near Detroit. His family moved to Texas when he was 10 years old. He played hockey in the Dallas area before being drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in 1988.
Modano is considered one of the greatest American-born hockey players of all time. He played over 20 seasons in the NHL for the North Stars/Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings. He scored a total of 1,374 points (in 1,499 games) during his career which included winning a Stanley Cup Championship with the Dallas Stars in 1999.
“It’s been an amazing ride. From growing up in Texas and playing on those terrible ice surfaces to playing pro hockey for more than 20 years, I can’t complain one bit.” – Mike Modano
While Houston may not currently have an NHL team, that hasn’t stopped it from producing some great hockey talent such as Pat Verbeek, David Emma, and Mike Modano.
Potential for an NHL Team in Houston
While many may associate Houston with football and baseball, the city has been making strides to join the National Hockey League (NHL) realm. As of now, the NHL only has two teams representing Texas: the Dallas Stars and the newest addition, the Seattle Kraken. However, it seems that Houston could be next on the list. In recent years, there have been discussions surrounding a potential NHL team in Houston, but what would this mean for the city’s economy, sports culture, and overall identity?
Houston’s Bid for an NHL Team: Pros and Cons
The biggest advantage of getting an NHL team would be the boost to Houston’s economy. Many businesses are sure to profit from increased tourism related to hockey games and merchandise sales. Additionally, the creation of new jobs both inside and outside of the arena would provide job opportunities to locals who might be struggling to find work.
On the other hand, some people remain skeptical about the benefits of having another professional league in town. They claim that such events bring little revenue and mostly just add more traffic and congestion to already crowded streets. This is especially true given how many roads in Houston do not connect efficiently. Other concerns stem from structural issues – the Toyota Center, where the Houston Rockets play basketball, currently sits as the only facility ready for hockey in Houston. It’s an older building that was last renovated in 2012, so substantial investments would inevitably need to be made if they wanted to ensure the venue is accommodating for the sport.
What Would a Houston NHL Team Look Like?
If Houston were to get its own NHL team, it would likely create an interesting dynamic given the current location of the Dallas Stars. The team is located roughly four hours north of Houston – within driving distance for fans who might not want to make the trip all the way up to Dallas. Houston would present a unique opportunity to both Texas and the NHL as a whole, putting two teams in close proximity while also keeping them situated within separate divisions. Houston would likely have a different color scheme and branding than the Stars, helping to differentiate themselves from their nearby rival.
The Impact of an NHL Team on Houston’s Economy
A massive driver of revenue for sports teams is merchandise sales, and that impact could be felt immensely here with Houston getting its own NHL team. With the city being a significant market for sports equipment already, players’ jerseys and other memorabilia are sure to sell well among locals and avid hockey fans globally. A big-league presence like this would increase awareness about ice sports throughout Texas and encourage more youngsters to devote time learning and developing skills playing them. It would boost local Hockey interest and bring forward increased business opportunities for ice hockey related brands entrepreneurs across several fields through more liveable platforms created by new infrastructure investments and lead to overall better financial results for sponsors reaching out to longer dated sponsorships because they now have large potentials reached locally.
Challenges to Overcome for Houston to Get an NHL Team
Despite some advantages, there are still challenges that need to be overcome before Houston can even consider bidding for an NHL team. One is the aforementioned issue regarding Toyota Center – it needs substantial renovations if it wants to host hockey games effectively. With recent years being marred with economic unsteady uncertainty caused by the pandemic, there will be a challenge in establishing support and investment commitment levels needed for such construction procedures. While there is no doubt that the City of Houston has the enthusiastic fanbase capable of filling the arena come game day, adequate ticket pricing feasibility factors cannot be overlooked. There’s always bound to be pushback or criticism from people feeling unable to afford games after settling for other budgetary expenses. Team owners and investors will have to think holistically about ticket prices that wouldn’t turn a local population off who are already struggling economically as is.
“I would love to see it happen whether under Rockets ownership or not, ” said Jim Crane, the owner of the Houston Astros baseball team. “…it puts in another high level sports entertainment option” -Jim Crane
While it isn’t yet clear if Houston will proceed with a bid for an NHL team, there’s no doubt that this could drastically change the city’s future economy and positioning within Texas internationally. The potential creation of jobs, infrastructure improvements, and focus on hockey development would undoubtedly benefit Texans; however, ensuring these outcomes must go hand in hand with well-thought-out strategic planning stages that provide assurance regarding financial feasibilities, reasonable pricing options, and thorough infrastructure developments across all fields affecting society now and also post-pandemic times.
Alternatives to an NHL Team in Houston
Minor League Hockey: A Viable Alternative
Although the lack of a National Hockey League (NHL) team leaves something to be desired for hockey fans in Houston, there are still other options available. One alternative is attending minor league hockey games.
The American Hockey League (AHL) and the ECHL are two professional minor leagues that feature teams from all across North America. The AHL has teams affiliated with NHL clubs while the ECHL acts as a developmental league for players hoping to make it to a higher level. Both leagues offer quality hockey at affordable prices compared to attending an NHL game.
Houston had its own minor league hockey team, the Aeros, which played in the AHL from 1994 to 2013 before relocating to Iowa. While it was disappointing for fans to lose their local team, it did not mean the end of minor league hockey in Houston. Currently, the area is home to the Lone Star Brahmas, who play in the North American Hockey League. Despite being lower on the professional ladder, the Brahmas provide exciting hockey games for fans looking for an alternative to the NHL.
“The affordability of minor-league sports is where they really shine… people get the whole entertainment package.” – Doug Kirchhofer
College Hockey: A Growing Sport in Texas
Another growing option for hockey fans in Houston is college hockey. While college hockey might not yet have the same popularity in Texas as it does in states like Minnesota or Michigan, schools such as Texas A&M University and the University of Texas have made strides in developing competitive programs.
Every year, these schools take part in tournaments and compete against other schools throughout the country. For example, the Texas A&M Aggies compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association and have had success, reaching the final four of the 2018-19 season.
Additionally, students from these schools who aspire to play hockey at a professional level often use their college team as an opportunity to showcase their skills. Houstonians can take advantage of this by attending games featuring local college teams and supporting their fellow Texans.
“College hockey is so much more than just playing for your school—the camaraderie between players within teams, teams with other teams.” – Matt Lindblad
International Hockey: Bringing Diversity to Houston
Hockey is played worldwide and international ice hockey tournaments bring together some of the best players from across the globe. In recent years, Houston has become a host city for a number of international events such as the IIHF Women’s Ice Hockey World Championship which was held in 2021.
Watching these high-level games featuring different countries and cultures brings a unique touch to sports entertainment that can be missed when only following one league or team. Fans have the opportunity to cheer on underdog nations and watch great moments unfold on the ice.
Recent upgrades to Houston’s arenas and facilities make it a possible location for future large-scale international events. This makes the possibility of top-tier international competitions coming to Houston even greater and gives fans an exciting option to look forward to in the future.
“Hockey should embrace its role as the world’s game…it adds to the diversity of our sport and increases interesting narratives while also expanding the talent pool.” – Greg Wyshynski
Street Hockey: A Fun Way to Play in Houston
Finally, if you are not content watching hockey but are looking to play instead, then street hockey is another fun option. Street hockey is played on foot or rollerblades, making it a popular alternative for those who don’t have access to ice rinks.
You can find games being played in parks and schoolyards throughout the Houston area. A casual game of street hockey with friends provides an easy and accessible way to play while also improving your skills, technique, and fitness levels.
“Street hockey is about the cheapest form of recreation around…it’s one of those great sports that everyone can participate in.” – Dan Brennan
Where to Watch Hockey in Houston
If you’re a hockey fan living in Houston or just visiting, you might be wondering where you can watch some live games. Luckily, there are several options around the city that cater to hockey fans.
The Best Sports Bars to Watch Hockey in Houston
Sports bars are always a fun option when it comes to watching your favorite teams play. In Houston, there are a number of sports bars that specialize in showing hockey games:
- Nick’s Place: A popular spot for all kinds of sports fans, Nick’s Place has multiple large screens and plenty of seating for groups.
- Biggio’s Sports Bar: Named after famous Astros catcher Craig Biggio, this bar is located inside the Marriott Marquis hotel and features over 30 TVs.
- Born and Raised: With two locations in Houston, this casual sports bar offers great drink specials during game days and lots of televisions to catch the action.
If you’re looking for a more upscale setting, try checking out The Maple Leaf Pub. This Canadian-themed pub showcases NHL games on their big screens and even serves classic poutine.
Ice Rinks in Houston: Where to Watch Local Games
In addition to sports bars, ice rinks around Houston also offer opportunities to catch live hockey matches. Here are some notable venues:
- Sugar Land Ice, Sports Center: Not only does Sugar Land’s ice rink host local leagues and tournaments, but they often broadcast national and international games as well.
- Mary Jo Peckham Park: This Katy-based ice arena is open year-round and hosts a variety of events, including figure skating competitions and public hockey games.
- Bellerive Ice Center: Although primarily used for figure skating training, this ice rink in Sharpstown also has a small spectator area where you can watch local hockey teams face off.
Houston’s Hockey Venues: A Guide for Fans
If you want to experience the excitement of live hockey right here in Houston, look no further than the Toyota Center. Home to the AHL’s Houston Aeros from 2003-2013, the arena now hosts the NBA’s Rockets but still occasionally brings in hockey teams for exhibition games and tournaments.
“We hope we can bring back pro hockey permanently at some point,” said Tad Brown, CEO of the Houston Rockets, according to the Houston Chronicle.
In addition, there are several minor league and recreational leagues throughout Greater Houston that welcome fans. Some notable professional teams include:
- The Lone Star Brahmas (North Richland Hills)
- The Texas Stars (Cedar Park)
- The Allen Americans (Allen)
No matter how you choose to enjoy the sport of hockey in Houston, there are plenty of options available for enthusiastic fans both young and old. So grab your gear and get ready to cheer!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a professional ice hockey team in Houston?
No, there is no professional ice hockey team in Houston. However, there are several minor league teams that play in the area.
Has Houston ever had a professional ice hockey team?
Yes, Houston has had several professional ice hockey teams in the past. The most recent team, the Houston Aeros, played in the American Hockey League from 2001 to 2013.
Are there any minor league ice hockey teams based in Houston?
Yes, there are several minor league ice hockey teams based in Houston. These include the Houston Dynamo Junior Hockey Club, the Houston Wild, and the Bay Area Houston Blades.
Are there any ice hockey rinks in Houston?
Yes, there are several ice hockey rinks in Houston. Some of the most popular ones include the Ice at Memorial City Mall, the Aerodrome Ice Skating Complex, and the Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center.
Has Houston ever hosted any major ice hockey events?
Yes, Houston has hosted several major ice hockey events in the past. These include the 2004 NHL All-Star Game and the 2003 Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships.
What are some popular ice hockey teams that Houston residents support?
Since there is no professional ice hockey team in Houston, residents tend to support teams from other cities. Some popular teams include the Dallas Stars, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.