NHL begins formal expansion process; Seattle, Las Vegas and Quebec on radar

NHL begins formal expansion process; Seattle, Las Vegas and Quebec on radar

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Wednesday that the Board of Governors has agreed to explore the next round of NHL expansion.

Bettman said the NHL will accept formal applications for expansion franchises beginning in July, a process that will last about a month. The NHL’s executive committee will then go through the applications and decide if expansion should be pursued.

The starting fee for a new franchise wasn’t established, although Bettman said “based on the discussions I’ve had with ownership, I don’t think there’d be any appetite if the number didn’t start with a five.”

As in $500 million.

“With all the well-chronicled expressions of interest, let’s see what we get when you have to sign on the dotted line. “

Bettman said the NHL’s Board of Governors hasn't decided on one or two or more expansion teams, because they haven’t decided if they want to expand at all.

“The fact that we’re going through this process, doesn’t mean we’re going to expand. It means we’re going to stop just listening to expressions of interest and take a good hard look at what they mean and represent,” he said.

Bettman mentioned Seattle, Las Vegas and Quebec City by name, going into detail on the Las Vegas bid, hours before the NHL Awards were scheduled to begin in Sin City.

The Vegas ticket drive, led by potential owner Bill Foley, has produced over 13,000 commitments for season tickets from “individuals, not casinos or corporations,” according to Bettman. The tickets were only sold to groups of eight people or less.

That said, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it wasn’t a “Las Vegas driven meeting.”

Seattle, long considered the NHL's most desired option, needs to cut a new deal with its city council to allow public funds to be used for an arena project that, at the moment, is only allowed for an NBA team.

Bettman said that the status of the Arizona Coyotes, who had their arena lease cancelled by the city of Glendale, won’t factor into expansion at this time.

“Much ado about nothing,” said Bettman, who hoped “Glendale comes back to reality and decides what they did wasn’t the wisest thing to do.”

There’s no timeline for expansion, nor should there be, said Bettman.

“Expansion is a very serious and important business decision. You don’t do it frivolously,” he said. “No one is going to be persuaded by marching bands, nor would we consider seriously jottings on a napkin."