NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the proposal for a new arena in Seattle put forth by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer "needs to get much further along before the league considers any expansion," according to Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. Bettman said, "Until there is some better certainty about a building and its availability to an NHL team there’s really not a whole lot of point in even going further in the thought process." The NHL had "been intrigued by the prospect of Ballmer’s billions helping build an arena," and there also was "some thought earlier this year that Ballmer might become the majority owner of an NHL expansion franchise if it could help him eventually land an NBA team later." Ballmer and Hansen "were rebuffed in a reported offer" for the Bucks after "spending several months exploring the possibility of relocating an existing NBA team to Seattle." Hansen soon after "donated some arena land to a local community organization and gave interviews stating he and Ballmer had no interest in becoming majority hockey owners." While he "left open the possibility of he and Ballmer becoming minority partners with a willing NHL owner," that would "require that owner to foot the considerable cost difference of building a hockey venue with no guarantee of an NBA co-tenant." He added that the biggest expansion criteria are "the marketplace, arena and the viability of ownership." Unless all three "are more than satisfactory, expansion won’t happen" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/25).
WHALE WATCHING: In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs notes Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday during an interview on WWYZ-FM discussed "the legitimate chances" of the NHL returning to Hartford. Malloy said, "If you asked me three years ago, do I think there is a chance of a team coming to Hartford, I would have said no. If you ask me today whether there is a reasonable chance of a team relocating to Hartford or a new franchise in Hartford, I think that's far more possible today than it was three years ago. I've had three separate conversations, with two groups and a national organization that purports to represent a third group." Jacobs: "If there is somebody in state willing to make a big stake in an arena and an NHL team, get out from under the rock and start winning over the public" (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/25).