SOCHI, Russia – Last week, NHL commissioner Bill Daly once again tantalized hockey fans in Seattle, calling it “intriguing marketplace from the league’s perspective” if and when the League decides to expand.
“So, we think the possibility is there. It’s kind of more obvious than some of the other areas,” said Daly to the Seattle Times. “It doesn’t mean we’ve done our due diligence. We’d need to satisfy ourselves on the marketplace, but just the objective factors around the marketplace suggest Seattle would be a good hockey market.”
Daly reiterated that sentiment before the Sochi Olympic qualification round on Tuesday, but stressed that the NHL wasn’t on the cusp of expansion.
“The Pacific Northwest, we think, is a good hockey area. I think the Vancouver Canucks have done extraordinarily well in developing that area as a good hockey market. Doesn’t mean we’re going to expand there, doesn’t mean we’ve made any decisions in that regard,” he said.
Lest Seattle think they’re the frontrunners for expansion, Daly was quick to put over another candidate.
“By the way, I said the same thing about Quebec City. I also believe it’s a very good hockey market with a very strong and passionate fan base,” he said.
One of issues for Seattle is team ownership, and Daly acknowledged that. “Obviously if and when we ever get to that discussion, that would be a relevant consideration.”
That said, there was a report from the Seattle Times claiming there have been “negotiations between the league and potential ownership groups in Seattle about the cost of expansion fees.”
Daly said that any expansion talk hasn’t reached formal proposals. “Proposals … that’s not how I’d categorize it,” he said. “Expressions of interest.”
But again, Daly said, “We’re not at the point where we’re proposing any expansion to the board.”
As for European expansion, Daly said it doesn’t necessarily tie into the League’s decision on Olympic participation. South Korea, for example, isn’t likely to be an NHL market in the foreseeable feature. But Daly said that wouldn’t prevent the League from signing up for another Olympic tournament.
“I don’t think the fact that the games are in South Korea is necessarily a negative because we don’t want to expand to South Korea.”