NASHVILLE — There’s a theory that some people have about NHL expansion, and it goes something like this:
Las Vegas is a slam dunk. Sin City will get a team sometime in the near future. But Quebec City, the other formal candidate in the current process, is a different story. For reasons related to the Canadian dollar and alignment, the NHL would rather expand to Seattle. And so the league is stalling, waiting to see if Seattle can gets it arena act together, before it makes a decision on Quebec City.
That’s the theory anyway.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman rejected it today.
At a press conference, Bettman was asked if hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, whose memorandum of understanding to build an arena in downtown Seattle doesn’t expire until November of 2017, had become an “impediment” to the city’s chances of getting an NHL team.
“I wouldn’t characterize him that way,” said Bettman. “It is what it is. As things stand right now, there’s no prospect in the foreseeable future of a new arena in greater Seattle. It is what it is. And, frankly, right now we’re focused on Quebec City and Las Vegas, so that’s not even on our radar screen.”
But can Bettman understand why the league has been accused of slow-playing the process?
After all, it was Bettman who said the other day that “the Seattle market would be intriguing for the NHL at some point,” and it was Bettman who said that Hansen was “more focused” on the NBA than the NHL, and that “while there are people (Victor Coleman?) interested in trying to get some things off the ground with [Hansen], perhaps his agenda was dominating those discussions.”
Which is to say, if nothing arena-wise can get done in Seattle until Hansen’s MOU expires in November of 2017, kicking the can down the road could make perfect sense for the NHL.
“I assure you one has nothing to do with the other,” Bettman insisted. “We’re going through this expansion process and, frankly, if at this point somebody wanted to give us an application right now, we wouldn’t take it.”
The commissioner reiterated that no timeline exists for making a decision on Las Vegas and Quebec City, and that the league may expand by two teams, one team, or no teams at all.