Bettman Not Ruling Out Future NHL Expansion After Seattle Approval
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league is not currently focused on further expansion after approving Seattle's entry, which will bring the league to 32 teams. However, Bettman did not rule out expansion at a future point in time. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly recently said that there is not "any magic about 32 (teams)," and that expansion is appropriate "when a convincing case can be made that it will be beneficial and add value to the league as a whole." Communications company Quebecor has pursued an expansion team for Quebec City, having its bid deferred by the league when it applied alongside Las Vegas in '16 (Ian Thomas, THE DAILY). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes the "next shiny object in expansion for the NHL is Europe." But that would "require a whole division, at least four teams, all in Europe, which leaves no room for Quebec," a city without an NHL franchise since the Nordiques relocated to Denver and became the Avalanche in '95. All Quebec gets is "lip service and excuses" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/5).
LONG TIME COMING: TSN.ca's Frank Seravalli noted the NHL "wanted to be in the Emerald City for years and years." Movers and shakers from Seattle "first pitched Bettman on the idea" of a franchise in the city in '07. The NHL "sifted various potential ownership groups and waited out three failed arena projects to find what they believe is the best fit" for Seattle (TSN.ca, 12/4). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said Seattle is a "basketball town, the Pacific Northwest is a basketball region" and the NHL is "trying to take advantage of a well-to-do population that is not going to apparently get basketball" ("PTI," ESPN, 12/4). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes part of the reason why Seattle was "desirable" for NHL expansion is because it is the U.S.' 14th-largest TV market, and it is the "largest city without a winter sport." The NHL "will not be competing against the NBA for attention" (USA TODAY, 12/5). In N.Y., Ken Belson notes Seattle was "awarded an NHL franchise" in '74, but the offer was "rescinded because the ownership group ran into financial troubles." Another bid also "fell through" in '90 (N.Y. TIMES, 12/5).
NATURAL FIT: In Toronto, Michael Traikos writes the move to Seattle "makes a lot of sense for a league trying to extend its geographical footprint." Not only is Seattle "one of North America's fastest growing cities, with tech giant Amazon having recently opened its head offices in the downtown core, it's an area that is starving for a professional winter sports team" after losing the SuperSonics 10 years ago. Unlike Quebec City, its location in the northwest "allows the NHL to add balance to a league that is Eastern Conference heavy, while also providing a natural rival" for the Canucks (TORONTO SUN, 12/5). Seattle is about a two-hour drive from Vancouver, which NHL Seattle President & CEO Tod Leiweke "called its 'sister city.'" Leiweke: "Vancouver and Seattle share so much in common. Two absolutely gorgeous cities right on the water, with a backdrop of mountains ... there's going to be a built-in rivalry." The SUN's Traikos notes the NHL is "rife with geographic rivals," but until now, Vancouver "never really had one." Daly said Canucks Chair Francesco Aquilini has been "clear on the record for years now that he would love an expansion team in Seattle to create that rivalry" (TORONTO SUN, 12/5).