Bettman: NHL would start looking ‘more closely at Las Vegas’ if league expands

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The NHL Awards take place tomorrow in Las Vegas, so it’s no surprise that the topic of expansion to Sin City is being brought up, especially after ground was broken on the construction of a new 20,000-seat arena just last month.

According to commissioner Gary Bettman, however, the NHL isn’t looking to expand “right now.”

“I know Las Vegas is an important city,” Bettman told the Review-Journal. “Whether or not it’s a city for the NHL to put a team in is still to be determined. We have not done any investigating as to whether or not the city could support the NHL or looked at potential ownership groups. If the owners were to approve expansion, we would certainly begin looking more closely at Las Vegas and other potential markets.”

Bettman added that “having a building doesn’t assure you of a team, though not having a building assures you that you won’t have a team.” (See: Seattle.)

We wrote in December about the potential for the NHL to expand to Vegas. Back in 2009, Bettman said that “some league will be there” eventually, but not until there was a suitable arena.

Well…

Expanding to Las Vegas and Seattle would also bring the Western Conference up to 16 teams, the same as the current Eastern Conference, while allowing clubs like Detroit and Columbus to remain in the East.

That, of course, ignores Quebec City’s candidacy to rejoin the NHL. Which is why the situation in Florida is worth keeping an eye on.

Related: No expansion plans yet, but Bettman discusses Quebec City, Las Vegas, Seattle