SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2007/This Weeks News

Expansion on NHL’s radar

The NHL will advise its board of governors this week of interest it has received from cities and individuals about expanding the league and will seek feedback and direction, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.

A source said that an item for discussion on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting was “public reports of NHL expansion.”

Daly would not comment on that, but in an e-mail said, “We would have provided the Board with the same report, regardless of what has or has not appeared in the press.”

Two weeks ago, SportsBusiness Daily first reported that the NHL had confirmed it has been in discussions with film and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer about owning a team in Las Vegas, amid growing speculation that that league is on the verge of proposing expansion to Las Vegas and Kansas City.

Daly, who has confirmed that Las Vegas, Kansas City and Bruckheimer have all expressed interest, said additional cities and potential owners have also shown interest in an NHL expansion team, but he declined to name them. Sources said Harry Evans Sloan, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. chairman and CEO, and David Bonderman, founder of private equity group TPG, would be equal partners with Bruckheimer if the producer were granted a Las Vegas NHL franchise.

Daly said that he wouldn’t know the next step in the process until after the board meeting, but that if given direction to move forward “we would study [expansion] first before making a decision.”

The last time the NHL voted to expand was in 1997, when it grew from 26 to 30 teams.

The Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets were added between 1998 and 2000 as a result of that decision. The expansion fee for each of the four teams was $80 million.

NHL franchise values have exploded since the NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed to a new collective-bargaining agreement that established a salary cap in 2005. Last month the Nashville Predators agreed to be sold for $220 million, and sources said that an expansion fee for an NHL franchise could be as high as $300 million.

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