Just think, only 69 more sleeps until the good folks of Las Vegas and Quebec City find out whether they’re going to be watching their very own team by 2017-18. Maybe. After making their presentations to the executive committee of the board of governors, both parties now wait to see whether the board will make a decision whether or not to grant them expansion franchises at its Dec. 7-8 meetings in Palm Springs.
In business parlance, they’re known as Dog and Pony Shows and that’s pretty much what Tuesday’s presentations were. The presentations represent the third stage of the expansion process for the NHL and they’re slick and refined, but the reality is that there’s really nothing in those presentations that the members of the executive board already don’t know. This part of the process is basically a formality. To be sure, the members of the executive board are not going to make a recommendation to the board of governors based on a one-hour presentation.
The two groups made their pitches to Bettman and 10 of the most powerful men in hockey. The most omnipotent of the crew is Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who is the chair of the executive committee. Other members are Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum, Calgary Flames co-owner Murray Edwards, Anaheim Ducks owner Harry Samueli, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos and Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz.
Chances are, the NHL and those five men know down to the minute detail everything about the bids by Quebec City and Las Vegas already. In fact, almost all the information they needed was gathered during Phase II of the expansion process this summer when prospective owners had to surrender their business plans, declare their backers, plans for financing and information about the market. Suffice to say there will be no surprises, either in the questions they face from the executive committee or in the answers the committee receives.
Even though the decision will be made in a vote of the 30 members of the board of governors as a whole, it will be essentially made by Bettman and the executive committee. The committee will make its recommendation one way or the other, likely to the board of governors meeting in December, and that is when the board will vote on whether or not to accept one, both or neither of them. A total of 24 of the 30 board of governor votes is required to gain and expansion franchise.
Las Vegas appears to be a shoo-in on that front. The Quebec City group, which is led by the company that owns The Hockey News, has done everything the NHL has expected of it and it certainly doesn’t hurt its chances that it was only one of two teams that officially entered the expansion bid process. Much has been made of the travails of the Canadian dollar and how that will impact Quebec, but former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who is part of the Quebec City pitch group, told reporters afterward that even with the Canadian dollar struggling, the Quebec franchise will be financially viable.
If the league were to demand its $500 million expansion fee today in U.S. funds, that would amount to $677 million in Canadian funds. But the Quebec City franchise is not encumbered with having to build its own arena. The $400 million Centre Videotron was publicly funded, so the owners of the team will not start with a huge arena debt, which is a huge advantage.
So now Quebec City and Las Vegas sit and wait…and continue to answer any other questions the executive committee might have. This could go to the December meetings, but there’s not an enormous rush to do this given the fact that both cities will soon have NHL buildings ready very soon. The governors could push their decision back to next June, but chances are the people who really make the decision have all the information they need.