NHL expansion just a ‘media driven’ distraction?

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman answers questions about hockey issues at a news conference at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The NHL has poo-poo’d expansion more than a toddler does her Huggies, but we always come back to the same two numbers: 16 and 14, which are the total teams in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, respectively.

How long can you keep East owners’ cries of inequity at bay? How long can you ignore the windfall from NHL expansion filling all their piggy banks while the League’s hot?

Welp, according to David Shoalts of the Globe & Mail, it’ll be for a while:

Multiple NHL governors say this discussion is media-driven and there is practically no talk about adding teams. Indeed, Chicago businessman Don Levin said he is “tired of chasing circles,” and gave up actively pursuing a team in Seattle because there was no response from the NHL.

(An aside: Levin was a big mover and shaker early on in the process, but other suitors have come around since, including that Jeremy Roenick group.)

As Shoalts continues:

The problem in adding two teams (with the Western Conference at 14 teams and the Eastern Conference at 16, this is the only way it will work) is splitting up all that new revenue Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and marketing man John Collins produced. A lot of owners would rather divide that annual $28-million 30 ways instead of 32, especially since the TV numbers are fixed for the next decade.

However, the lure of expansion money is usually too much to resist. At least some NHL governors think it will take three years for an announcement, which just happens to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the league. Three years would also give the league time to assess the chances of the Coyotes and Panthers surviving in the long-term.

Three years might also be the time when the NBA could look to expand again, with Seattle as an option.

There are other hurdles that time would clear, such as the slow process in building a new arena in Seattle. But keep in mind the Coyotes' outclause is five years, meaning they could bolt in 2018 if the team loses $50 million.

So it sounds like 2017, for various understandable reasons, could be when we finally get a balanced league and either expansion or relocation. I’ve long thought it would be a combination of both: one U.S. market and two Canadian markets (Toronto and Quebec City). But with Seattle a near lock, wither Las Vegas?

(FYI: Prayers for Seattle today after that helicopter tragedy.)