PITTSBURGH — Mark June 22 on the calendar. That’s when the NHL’s Board of Governors will meet in Las Vegas, and that’s when we should get word about the league’s expansion plans.
“That word,” commissioner Gary Bettman said today at his annual Stanley Cup Final press conference, “will probably come in one of the following forms:
“Whether there will be no expansion; whether expansion will be deferred until a later time in the future; or whether there will be expansion, and if so whether it will be a one-team or a two-team expansion.
“I am not going to handicap what’s going to happen. But again, when the board meets in Las Vegas on June 22, I am fairly certain that we will know more than we do today.”
The NHL is currently considering two expansion bids, one from Las Vegas and another from Quebec City. The former is optimistic about its chances, while the latter’s fortunes may have been dashed by the decline of the Canadian dollar.
On Las Vegas, the commissioner and his deputy, Bill Daly, were asked if the NFL’s potential foray into that market could affect the NHL’s decision. The answer to that question was no.
The other theme of today’s press conference was the Olympics. Specifically, the IOC’s decision to stop covering millions of dollars in transportation and insurance costs for the players.
On that, Bettman had a strong message for the IOC and IIHF.
“I’m pretty sure that our teams are not really interested in paying for the privilege of disrupting our season,” he said.
In other words, if the IOC and IIHF can’t resolve the “expense issue,” it’s practically a certainty that the NHL will not be sending its players to Pyeongchang, South Korea.