BY Art Thiel 11:27PM 08/26/2014

Report: Seattle, 3 others on list to join NHL in ’17

A tweet by a sports business reporter Tuesday said Seattle, Las Vegas, Quebec City and Toronto would be granted expansion franchises by 2017, for expansion fees that could raise $1.4 billion to be shared by the existing 30 franchises and not with the players.Howard Bloom of Sports Business News posted no story nor cited sources, but on the same day, news broke in Vancouver’s Province newspaper that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is beginning to shift away from his previous no-expansion-is-foreseeable position.

The story said that an expansion plan for Las Vegas is a done deal, which would make the NHL the first major sports league to venture into the gambling mecca. Expansion usually, but not necessarily, occurs in tandems, and thr NHL has 16 teams in the East and 14 teams in the West.


Bettman was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune as saying, “There’s a lot of interest. We’re hearing from multiple groups in Seattle and in Vegas and Kansas City and Quebec City,

“We have not decided to engage in a formal expansion process but we listen to expressions of interest. It’s not something we’ve seriously considered yet.”

That’s a poorly disguised come-hither pitch from a commissioner who has resisted expansion for 15 years, but has some labor peace and is now gathering greater TV revenues.

Little has changed in Seattle regarding the prospects for a basketball/hockey arena, but developer and Seattle native Chris Hansen has talked with prospective NHL owner Victor Coleman about an arena partnership. To make an NHL team come first, the memorandum of understanding between Hansen, the city and King County must be rewritten because is predicated on basketball first.

Neither the council nor Mayor Ed Murray has expressed any desire for a rewrite. But without a commitment from a league to relocate a team or expand, Hansen has no incentive to visit the issue.

If Hansen gets a partner who assumes some equity risk in the arena construction, and agrees to own the NHL team, he would have a case to present — but only after a final environmental impact statement on the SoDo site is released and approved by the city council. Approval would come only after settlements of almost inevitable litigation threatened by those opposed to the SoDo site. The final EIS may be released by November.

Hansen’s MOU was signed in 2012 and runs to 2017, which fits with the Bloom report.

Coleman is a Vancouver native with significant real estate holdings in Seattle and Los Angeles. He told KING5 recently that Seattle is an ideal market for the NHL

“I think the demographic base (in Seattle) and the desire of the NHL in that marketplace is the perfect match right now,” he said. “The expansion of the NHL into the Pacific Northwest, with Vancouver and the presiding area, makes it a perfect fit. There are built-n synergies. That’s a ‘Day 1’ rivalry.”

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the NHL’s highest grossing team and would have to share a market with a second team. Quebec City is scheduled to open its new arena in 2015, even though no NHL team is committed.


  • jafabian

    Toronto and Vegas a bit of a surprise. I wonder how the Maple Leafs feel about sharing their market? And can Vegas really support a hockey team? Or are there too many entertainment options to consistently support one? I’m thrilled that Seattle is in this despite not making much progress on an NHL ready facility. They want to be here more than the NBA which makes sense. Grab Seattle’s sport dollar now while they’re still playing hard to get with the city council.

  • RadioGuy

    First of all, the NHL should not expand at this point. They have a few franchises in tough shape and they’d be better off trying to fix them first before adding teams. Of course, those expansion fees are pure profit while the league only gets a portion of the sale price for an existing team, so we can forget common sense and prudent management when it comes to expansion.

    Second, I can’t begin to imagine the Leafs letting another team into their market. Even though they haven’t won a Stanley Cup since the mid-60’s, the Leafs are the most valuable franchise in the NHL so their opinion WILL count. Vegas? I’m with jafabian: Another hockey team in the desert is not a good idea, especially in a city with a zillion other things to do and no track record of supporting a pro sports team well. KC has the arena but not a great hockey market. Seattle? Not before an arena is built (or at least 100% committed to) and even then, where do they play on a temp basis? 10K-seat Key Arena? 40 miles away in a building with a lot of seats but almost no amenities? Quebec is the easy choice of the cities mentioned but how often does expansion include just one team? And a 31-team league would be a scheduler’s nightmare.

    I think the logical thing to do would be to move an existing team (Phoenix? Isles? Panthers?) to Quebec so one shaky franchise is replaced by one that’ll sell out into perpetuity, THEN focus on expansion down the road. Bettman may be talking possible growth, but I think he’s mostly raising a flag to see who’ll salute. Can’t imagine anyone in Seattle overspending for an NHL team the way Hansen was going to for the Kings.