PITTSBURGH – When the Vegas Golden Knights hit the ice next season, the NHL will have 31 teams, which means that speculation will continue about No. 32 eventually joining the League.
In other words, more talk about Quebec City and Seattle, who were in contention for an NHL franchise during the last round of expansion. In Quebec’s case, their official bid for a team was rejected by the NHL, while Vegas was approved. In Seattle’s case, competing bids and the lack of a solid arena plan prevented the city from making an official bid.
The arena issue is gaining more clarity in Seattle. Two groups, both with strong ties to the NHL, are attempting to renovate Key Arena. Tim Leiweke, CEO of arena bidder Oak View Group, said they’re committed to a renovation that would make the venue “perfect” for NBA and NHL teams. Leiweke is the former president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and former President and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is the other bidder on Key Arena’s renovation.
So where does that leave the NHL and Seattle?
“We kinda stopped holding on breath on new arenas in Seattle,” said Bill Daly, NHL deputy commissioner. “If something gets done and it’s a hockey-friendly building, does that make it more likely that at some point Seattle might be a likely site for expansion? Sure. But that’s in the future.”
As for Quebec, Daly said it’s a numbers game now for the NHL. There are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference. There are now 15 teams in the Western Conference. Expansion to Quebec would mean “further imbalance” for the League. “I think we have to address that before we can give more consideration to Quebec City,” he said.
As for relocation, the two teams most mentioned by markets desirous to land a team are the Arizona Coyotes and the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes’ lease runs through 2024, which is one of several factors that lend doubts to whether they would relocate, even as owner Peter Karmanos seeks to sell a majority ownership share in the team.
Daly thinks he’ll be able to find a buyer.
“Everybody understands that Peter is willing to sell an interest in that club. There is interest there. I don’t think there’s anything close to fruition but it’s a work in progress,” he said.
As for the Coyotes and their seemingly endless arena drama, Daly there are “three to four” local arena options for the team, whose lease in Glendale expires after next season.
“We have a lot of patience for the Coyotes. We’re confident there are a lot of arena opportunities for them there,” said Daly. “Our focus is on cultivating one of those opportunities, and we have every sense they’ll be successful.”
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