NHL commissioner says expansion franchise not a sure thing


10 November 2015

A week after NHL officials confirmed there are no plans to vote on whether or not to expand at next month’s Board of Governors meeting, commissioner Gary Bettman was pumping the brakes on the entire notion of growing the league by one or more teams anytime soon.

Speaking with reporters Monday in Toronto at a sports management conference and trade show while in that city for the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, Bettman said the owners are thinking long and hard whether it makes financial sense to accept offers of $500 million from Bill Foley, who is heading Las Vegas’ bid to join the NHL, and a group from Quebec City, which is looking to bring the league back to that city after the Nordiques moved to Denver in 1995.

“It’s not a quick cash grab,” Bettman said. “People think, ‘Oh, of course you’re going to expand with all this money.’ No, not so fast.”

Bettman confirmed what deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Review-Journal last week that the executive board will meet during the December 7-8 Board of Governors meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif., but that a vote on expansion will not be taken at that meeting. Foley said last week that he remains in contact with the NHL and remains confident that at some point he will be successful and bring major league professional sports to Las Vegas.

Bettman also understands that Foley is anxious to gain approval and that 13,500 fans in Las Vegas have financially committed to supporting a potential team with deposits on season tickets. However, he pointed out that the owners, while impressed with the enthusiasm displayed, have a lot more to consider than just a fan base willing to support the game.

“It’s you’re in Quebec City or you’re in Las Vegas, you say, ‘This is a no-brainer, give us a team,’ ” Bettman said. “But if you’re the owner of an NHL team, you want to understand who may be the potential owner, whether or not the market can support the team, what, perhaps most importantly, it does for the league as a whole.

“Does it enhance what we’re trying to do nationally, both in Canada and in the U.S.?”

Bettman said he wasn’t sure if there’s an appetite for expansion among the owners, something Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs alluded to back in September after Foley and the Quebecor group made their presentations to the expansion committee in New York City.

“For each team you add, there is a diminutation of the national revenue share that each club currently gets,” he said.

Bettman also said the NHL is not deliberately stalling the expansion process in order to facilitate a bid from Seattle, a market the league admits it covets but has yet to hear from since the formal expansion process began last summer.

“There is no prospect right now of a new building in Seattle,” Bettman said.

By Steve Carp

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