COLUMBUS, Ohio – The National Hockey League hasn't formally started the expansion process yet. But when it does, they will look ouest before nord.
“To the extent our board makes a decision that expansion is something they’ll consider or pursue, which they haven’t yet, as an initial matter we have to look West first due to the geographic alignment of our teams,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly, at the All-Star Game’s State of the NHL address from Gary Bettman.
“We have 14 teams in the Western Conference, 16 teams in the East. That’s an imbalance that we’ll want to remedy.”
That response was to the annual question from the French-language media about the NHL’s return to Quebec City, which is in the process of building a new arena. But when Bettman spoke about potential expansion, Quebec wasn’t mentioned in his remarks.
Las Vegas and Seattle were.
“I really have nothing new to report that I haven’t previously reported. Las Vegas is getting ready to launch the season ticket campaign,” said Bettman, “and we continue to get interest from others including Seattle. Their mayor visited and we had a nice chat.”
Mayor Ed Murray recently told local media in Seattle that he had met with both NBA commissioner Adam Silver and with Bettman. He said Bettman told him the NHL wants to place a team in Seattle if the city had a building ready for one.
Which is the catch: Chris Hansen, the potential owner of an NBA franchise in Seattle, has a memorandum of understanding with the city in which funding will be released for an arena if he acquires an NBA team first.
Murray said changing the MOU for an NHL-first arena would be determined by “a potential financial model proposition penciled out” by interested parties.
Hansen’s MOU runs out in 2017. Is this now a waiting game for the NHL until a new one can be submitted?
“Not necessarily,” said Daly. “There are a couple of variations that are interesting in the Seattle mix. I just don’t know how it’ll play out at this point.”
(Keep in mind the NHL celebrates its centennial in 2017.)
As for Vegas, Bettman said there’s no “deadline or timeline” to determine the success of potential owner Bill Foley’s season-ticket drive.
“Bill asked to do it, so we could get a sense as to whether or not the market would support the grassroots level, if you will, franchise. He has to make those judgments," said Bettman. "My guess is the campaign kicks off in February. If he’ still running it in next October, my guess is tickets didn’t sell so quickly. If he’s able to get to a number that makes a lot of sense and shows a great deal of enthusiasm in 2-3 weeks, we’ll have a better sense of the market.”
No one expects 13,000 season tickets in 17 minutes like Winnipeg, of course.
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