Two Groups Vie To Bring NHL Hockey Back To Atlanta

It looks like NHL hockey could be coming back to Metro Atlanta, one way or another.

Reports have been saying that there are interested parties that want to lure a professional hockey team to Atlanta. However, there has been no confirmed deal in place to bring a franchise to a market that has had two NHL teams come and go in the last 50 years. (The Flames, 1972-80, and the Thrashers 1999-11).

ESPN reports one group, the Alpharetta Sports & Entertainment Group, has formally asked the NHL to begin an expansion process to bring a franchise to Atlanta. The group is led by former NHL player Anson Carter and is backed by several partners including Neil Leibman (Top Tier Sports), Peter Simon (Simon Sports), Aaron Zeigler (Zeigler Automotive Group), and New York Life Real Estate Investors. In addition to the team and the arena they hope to play in, there will also be a mixed-use development in the team’s target home in Alpharetta.

In a response to the group’s request, NHL’s deputy commissioner Bill Daily said in a statement that he appreciated the group’s enthusiasm, but “as we have made clear, we have no expansion oriented process in place currently.”

Carter is no stranger to Atlanta sports. He is part owner of the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators hockey team. As part of Atlanta Sports and Entertainment, he tried to purchase the Hawks and Thrashers, with no success.

Another group, led by Metro businessman Vernon Krause, thinks nearby Forsyth County could be the right place for an NHL hockey team. So much so he is proposing to build an 18,000-seat arena in tandem with its own mixed-use development, collectively called “The Gathering at South Forsyth.”

Krause told WSB TV’s Zack Klein he hopes to get the inaugural season started in the 2027-28 season if the NHL gives him the go-ahead.

He told Klein his team won’t be repeating the location and management mistakes the Thrashers made.

“The [original] Thrashers I think failed because of the location and the ownership,” he said. “We are singularly focused on having an NHL team in Forsyth County and one that the entire state can be proud of.”

Although Daily said there were no current plans to bring an expansion team to Metro Atlanta, he told ESPN in September 2023 that an NHL team can do better now in Atlanta than they did in the Flames/Thrashers eras.

“I think times have changed pretty dramatically and the market demographics have changed pretty dramatically since the first time we went there and then again in 1999,” said Daily. “I think a lot of bigger businesses are in Atlanta [now, as opposed to then.]