Bettman: Winnipeg and Quebec City first in line for expansion

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While Gary Bettman’s state of the league/Stanley Cup press conference covered a lot of topics that we’ve covered here today, an interesting topic that was touched on was about what the league plans to do should expansion or relocation come up in discussions.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman expressed interest in seeing teams return to Winnipeg and Quebec City before another one ever comes to Southern Ontario. And he regrets allowing the Jets and Nordiques to move.

“I’d like to try and fix something that I wish might not have happened in the first place,” he said Friday during his annual state-of-the-league address prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. “Not unlike what we did in Minnesota.”

The reclaim-to-glory plan worked well with the Wild in Minnesota because, well, Minnesota is the state of hockey and the team left town because Norm Green was kind of a jerk. As for the whole deal with Winnipeg, Bettman confirmed David Thomson and True North submitted an offer for the Phoenix Coyotes and elaborated a little on how that would break down.

“They are very comfortable with the process,” he said. “They understood that the likelihood was that the team was going to be remaining in Phoenix. They wanted us to know of their interest and they have told us that they are prepared to be patient.”

He’s reluctant to say how long it will be before the NHL returns to Winnipeg.

“I’m not going to put a timeline on it because I do not want to raise expectations,” Bettman said. “The interest is clear and bona fide. It’s gratifying.”

In other words, Bettman would like for them to wait until expansion, but depending on how things go in Phoenix, they may not have to wait that long.