NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday that the league has no current plans to expand, and that there is no vote formally scheduled for December’s upcoming board of governors meeting.
In an interview with SI Now, the commissioner touted the league’s financial health and popularity and noted that he and others were listening to expressions of interest from potential team owners. He called the interest from owners “gratifying." Earlier this year, a report surfaced that said the league was eyeing expansion in Toronto, Quebec City, Seattle and Las Vegas.
Bettman also spoke to the financial health of the beleaguered Florida Panthers franchise. The franchise reportedly lost $100,000 per day last season. Last month, only 7,000 fans attended a Panthers home game when the team played Ottawa.
Below is a transcript of the commissioner’s responses on questions of expansion and the health of the Panthers’ franchise.
On whether there be a formal vote on NHL expansion at the upcoming board of governors meeting:
"No vote scheduled for the board meeting. There’s no process. All we’re doing is continuing to listen to expressions of interest. The good news is that the league has never been healthier, never been stronger, our franchises have never been better owned in terms of the strength of our ownership, and we’ve never been more popular. So, the expressions of interest are very gratifying. We haven’t decided to engage in a formal expansion process. So, no process, no vote. But we’re talking to people who are expressing interest and it’s kind of fun."
On the idea that only 7,000 fans showing up to a Florida Panthers game earlier this year indicates that there should be fewer teams:
"No, I think that would not be what’s going on down there. There was a change in ownership about a year ago, and they’re modifying business practices. There had been the practice of discounting and giving away lots and lots of tickets, and new ownership, which I think is the right model, wants to have those fans which are actually paying for their tickets not feel they’re being devalued. And so, they’re building their fan base in terms of attendance back up. The team is performing very well on the ice. Vinnie Viola, who is the new owner for the Panthers in Florida, is committed to south [Floridians], committed to the Panthers and has the resources to see the franchise through to re-establish what we think are sensible business practices."
- Will Green