Quebec City and Las Vegas saw their hopes for an NHL expansion team cool off when Gary Bettman spoke at conference in Toronto, but the Olympic news sounded better.
Anxious for a decision on NHL expansion or player participation in the Olympics? May as well settle in. The league is in no hurry to make the call on either hot topic.
Commissioner Gary Bettman told attendees of the Prime Time Sports & Entertainment Conference in Toronto on Monday morning that there is no deadline for a decision on expanding to Quebec City or Las Vegas. Applications from both cities are currently under examination by the league.
Bettman also said that “nobody's sure” if there’s an appetite for expansion, adding “it's not a quick cash grab.”
He noted that expansion would mean future league revenues would have to be divided by 31 or 32 teams, and that’s something the NHL’s Board of Governors has to consider before making a final decision.
Bettman said that the league was not waiting around for Seattle, a geographically desirable market but one without an NHL-ready building or leading ownership group, in order to make a final decision about the other two cities. He added that Atlanta might still be a viable market, although that option “is not currently on the table.” The league pulled up stakes from the city five years ago when it allowed the rudderless Thrashers to relocate to Winnipeg, the second time an NHL franchise had failed in that city.
On the Olympic front, Bettman said the league could have “up to a year” to decide whether to participate in the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. He seemed more enthused about the 2022 Beijing Games, though, calling the event “a game changer” because of the potential of the massive Chinese market. That’s an enticing hint for fans of NHL players in the Olympics, and Bettman said that he sees those two events as a package deal and the league will be part of neither or both.
The commissioner also revealed that he’ll be part of these decisions for many years to come, saying retirement “is not on my radar screen.”