Bettman calls Panthers relocation speculation ‘unfounded’

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is getting tired of all the speculation about the Florida Panthers moving to Quebec City.

“Let me say this the right way,” Bettman told reporters today (video). “I don’t think it’s fair for the speculation on any franchise, including the Panthers, to be that it’s moving. It’s not.

“The Panthers have good ownership that’s committed to South Florida, and any speculation that that team’s future is anywhere but in South Florida is unfounded.”

Of course, to be fair to those who have speculated on the possibility of the Panthers moving (guilty!), the franchise has sort of brought that speculation on itself.

Remember this slide from the team’s presentation to the county?

source:

If there’s no chance the Panthers are leaving, why the threat?

Bettman also concedes that Quebec City, which will have a new arena by 2015, faces a challenging road to getting an expansion team, given there are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and just 14 teams in the Western Conference.

“Eastern expansion at this point would probably have more issues to deal with than a Western expansion, simply because we’re already out of balance, and I’m not sure that anybody would want to see that get worse,” said Bettman.

So, really, it’s only natural that proponents of the NHL’s return to Quebec City (guilty!) have set their sights on an Eastern Conference team like the Panthers, which, oh by the way, has been setting record lows for attendance in 2014-15 and admits to losing “tremendous amounts of money.”