Teams in the National Hockey League are set to drop the puck on the 2021-2022 season all over the United States and Canada. But could Mexico be hosting their own team on Mexican home ice soon?
“I think that I think it’s a great sort of goal to head towards but I think there are steps that we can take before that that I think are just as important,” said Xavier Gutierrez, the first-ever Latine CEO of an NHL team, and President of the Arizona Coyotes. About a possible NHL expansion into Mexico, Gutierrez said in a statement that his multi-level plan includes a philosophy by the great Wayne Gretzky who said simply to go where the puck is going. “So we asked ourselves. Where is the puck going? Latin America, South America? When you think about it, it’s going young. It’s going female. It’s going diverse. And in particular Latino, it’s going tech-savvy and purpose-driven.”
And that is in line with recent moves by the NHL to expand its fan base into, not just Mexico, but other Latin American countries. Earlier this year, the league inked a deal with ESPN to have NHL games broadcast in many Latin American countries starting this season. Back here at home, El Paso was host to Hockeyville, USA this past Sunday (Oct 3). There, the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes played a pre-season game in front of an El Paso crowd. The event was given to the border town after it received the most votes in a national contest where hundreds of towns entered – a clear indication of the desire for hockey in a predominantly Latine community.
Other signs that the league has been looking to expand into Mexico are through teams like The Los Angeles Kings and the Dallas Stars. Both of whom hold clinics in Mexico for kids. That comes with the addition of Spanish-only social media accounts for teams like The Coyotes and the Vegas Golden Knights, as well as Spanish-only broadcasts of live games.
And finally, in what is one of the biggest indications and certainly one of the most important, is the addition of Latine people at every level of the league. There is the hiring of Al Montoya, the first Cuban American player in the NHL, as the director of community outreach with the Dallas Stars. In addition to Gutierrez as President and CEO, the Coyotes’ owner, Alex Meruelo is the first-ever person of Latine descent to become a majority owner of an NHL team. Their head of marketing, chief branding, and chief strategy advisors are also Latine.
So, is a Mexican NHL team on the way? The short answer is, more than likely. But, as they say in hockey, you have to learn to walk before you can skate. And all indications are that with respect to a Latin American expansion, the NHL is walking, though they are lacing up the skates as we speak.