NEW YORK, AUG. 15 -- The race to join the NHL officially began today with 10 cities applying for the next two expansion franchises.
Milwaukee, Seattle, San Diego, Phoenix, Houston, Miami, Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., and Canadian entries Hamilton and Ottawa in Ontario each submitted applications and the $100,000 filing fee, only $65,000 of which is refundable. The teams accepted will pay a $50 million franchise fee.
The applications will be reviewed by a committee of the Board of Governors in the next few weeks, followed by a report to the full board, expected in mid-November. The NHL is expected to announce the new teams at its winter meeting in December and they will join the league in 1992.
The league has been at 21 teams since 1979, with a 22nd club, based in the San Francisco Bay area, beginning play in 1991. Current plans call for continued expansion to a 28-team league by the end of the decade.
NHL President John Ziegler refused to speculate on which cities might be front-runners. "We're not going to pre-judge any of the applicants," he said. "Today is not the day. We're excited that so many cities have such confidence in the NHL and we want to work with them."
Milwaukee, Phoenix and San Diego are the only cities that currently host minor league teams, all in the International Hockey League. The Milwaukee Admirals, based in the two-year-old Bradley Center, are the top farm club of the Vancouver Canucks. Phoenix is affiliated with Los Angeles and San Diego is an IHL expansion franchise.
Seattle, Ottawa and Hamilton have top-level junior teams. Houston had a team in the defunct World Hockey Association.