Body checks in Quebec City?
The National Hockey League still appears ready to expand its ranks, but the League’s top brass have said there are still a number of issues that need to be ironed out.
During his annual sState of the League news conference last month, League Commissioner Gary Bettman said the executive committee tasked with making recommendations about expansion met two weeks before the All-Star Game.
“The process is continuing, and we’re not ready to make a recommendation,” Bettman said in an article posted on nhl.com. “That is something that will be done over the next few months, and that recommendation can be no expansion, one team or two teams.”
Bettman added that there is no firm date for the recommendation. Issues that need to be worked out surround an expansion draft, team slotting for the NHL Draft, conference alignment, and competitive balance, league officials told nhl.com.
The Board of Governors is not expected to meet until June, but an expansion vote could come sooner if necessary. Expansion would have to win the blessing of three-fourths of the league owners. (An NHL spokesman said the State of the League address was the last time the commissioner has publicly discussed the expansion issue).
Expansion is not expected to occur before the 2017-18 season.
Before the NHL expands its ranks, it must win the blessing from – at minimum – 24 of the League’s 30 owners. Bettman said it still hasn’t been determined how many teams, if any, would be added through expansion.
So far, the lone applicants for expansion are Quebec City and Las Vegas. Prospective owners in Seattle also are eyeing an NHL franchise, as well asand the same is happening in Kansas City.
New teams would have to pony up a $500 million expansion fee.
Last year, the American City Business Journals ranked 83 sports markets for their capacity to absorb a professional sports franchise. The organization compared each market’s total personal income to the financial requirements of a new franchise in one of the five major sports.
Based on those criteria, Las Vegas garnered the maximum score for prospective NHL expansion cities. (Las Vegas also has surfaced as a possible destination for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders).
Construction is continuing on a $375 million, 20,000-seat arena that has been built with private funding, with an April 2016 opening planned.
Businessman Bill Foley, who has entered a bid to bring an NHL franchise to Las Vegas, said in December that his group has secured 13,500 full season ticket deposits and sold all of the luxury suites.
“I am committed more than ever to bring the first professional sports franchise to the state of Nevada,” Foley wrote in a December. 11 letter featured on the website Vegaswantshockey.com.
Quebec City, however, was deemed to have inadequate capacity to support an NHL franchise, according to the American City Business Journals rankings. There is also the issue of the weakening Canadian dollar that may enter into the calculus, league officials said.
As a result, the race to be the first NHL expansion team since the Turn turn of the Century century may, momentarily, be a one-horse race.