NHL expansion is going to happen.
We know this because contraction will never happen thanks to the NHLPA, and because the NHL’s owners have an unquenchable thirst for expansion money. We also know this because we’re all not complete idiots, and understand that if one conference has 16 teams and the other conference has 14 teams … welp …
Thus the question has never been “if” but “when” and “where,” and one of the answers has increasingly has become “Seattle” since the city committed to a state-of-the-art arena project.
Mitch Levy is a morning host on 950 KJR in Seattle, and he’s set hearts in the Emerald City aflutter again with news on Wednesday morning that Commissioner Gary Bettman is pushing for an expansion team in Seattle by 2014.
“The short of it is: I'm hearing that the NHL Commish is encouraging the board of governors to make an expansion team available to Seattle. If approved, the new expansion Seattle NHL club would cost approximately $275M. It would begin playing here in the 2014-2015 season. All of this contingent upon 1) a solid ownership coming forward and buying the team and 2) the new arena staying on track to be built.
“The ownership group that was interested in buying the Phoenix franchise remains in play here, amongst others.”
Levy says the current arena deal would have to be “tweaked” to keep construction on track. The fate of the arena was never specifically tied to Seattle landing an NBA team, which is good, because that whole thing with the Kings could have worked out better.
So is the NHL coming to Seattle?
Former NHLPA boss Paul Kelly said in January that the NHL had discussed a 32-team league with him and that expansion would happen in the next 2-3 years. Whether that was Kelly speaking out due to his own aspirations – he was the face of the arena movement in Markham, Ont. – or speaking the truth, it was shot down by the NHL.
"There’s never been a plan to expand to 32 teams," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com Wednesday morning. "Whether we talked conceptually at some point if things are going well whether we could expand to 32, I’m sure we suggested we could, but we certainly never reached the point where that was appropriate when Paul Kelly was executive director of the NHLPA and I’d say we haven’t got there at this point.
"I’d say any sports league aspires to be in a position where expansion is a good idea," added Daly. "But again, it’s got to be the right circumstances."
Are the right circumstances by the 2014-15 season? Potentially. It does come down to ownership, assuming the building works out. And that might not be a problem.
Again: If we had our druthers, there would be relocation to Seattle and expansion to Toronto and Quebec City, where the NHL can name its expansion price and get it.
But hockey’s coming to Seattle. It’s just a matter of when.
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