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Proctor, Minnesota wants an NHL expansion team

Councilman Travis White thinks Proctor should be home to a NHL expansion team.

Councilman Travis White thinks Proctor should be home to a NHL expansion team.

It's official. The city of Proctor, population 3,057, is bucking to land a NHL expansion team.

The city council unanimously supported a measure Monday night to bring a franchise to the locale situated within a Shea Weber slapshot southwest of Duluth.

The idea to put Proctor in the mix with oft-mentioned expansion aspirants like Quebec City, Kansas City, and Hamilton belongs to councilman Travis White, who earlier this year introduced a resolution to return a NFL team to the area. The Duluth Kelleys, later the Duluth Eskimos, played five seasons in the NFL starting in 1923. 

White hadn't intended to introduce the measure this soon. But he decided to bring it before the council after much-reviled NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league was only accepting applications from groups interested in pursuing a new team through Aug. 10.

White notes that Wild fans routinely travel from northern Minnesota to St. Paul. And a Proctor team would also draw from Grand Forks, N.D. where the Fighting Sioux fans regularly pack the 11, 643-seat Ralph Engelstad Arena. North Dakota fans would be driving 50 miles less to Proctor. 

"NHL teams from 1 to 30 in attendance, number one being the Chicago Black Hawks, they bring in about 22,000 fans. The bottom team, the Florida Panthers, has brought in just over 11,200," he told Kati Anderson of NNCNOW.com. "I think we can. Our college programs have shown that we can bring in that attendance."

The research and sales pitch needed for a NHL expansion franchise application comes with a sticker price of roughly $1 million. An additional $500 million is required for the expansion fee.

The council unanimously supported White's NHL measure. 

A second resolution also introduced by White to support the construction of a multi–use arena, ideally between Highways 2 and 35, passed on a 3-2 vote, although it doesn't marry the city to any financial obligations.

White tells City Pages the city has no plans to drop seven figures and woo the league. But by putting Proctor's name in the discussion, he hopes a struggling existing NHL team, i.e., the Florida Panthers, perhaps would think about relocating to northern Minnesota.

"Why would you pay $500 million for an expansion franchise when a struggling team like the Dallas Stars last year was valued by Forbes at around $422 million?" says White. "I know this could seem like a publicity stunt, but I do believe the area could support a team. It's a grand idea. Why Florida has multiple hockey teams, and Minnesota just one, I don't know."

Send tips to Cory Zurowski