NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to the media tonight, following the NHL Board of Governors meeting, and filled in many of the blanks regarding major league story lines in Seattle and Carolina. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and TSN’s Pierre LeBrun were among many in attendance to run through the long list of Bettman’s answers.
Following the recent approval by the city of Seattle to build a new arena in hopes of recruiting NHL and NBA teams to the city, there has been no bigger story around the league than the possibility of another expansion franchise in the near future. The proposal included a projected cost of $660MM to construct the arena, but according to Bettman, that will be only half the cost to join the NHL. Bettman confirmed this evening that the Board of Governors has agreed that they will accept an expansion application from the Seattle group, led by billionaire businessman David Bonderman, but that the board has set the expansion fee at $650MM, which is $150MM more than what Bill Foley and the Vegas Golden Knights just recently paid. Bettman clarified that the application also does not guarantee that a team will be placed in Seattle.
However, it certainly seems like a plan is in motion, with an eye on the 2020-21 season. Bettman specifically mentioned that the Seattle group may begin a ticket drive, similar to the one that found great success in Las Vegas. He also was clear that the league would not be accepting bids from any other cities, despite concrete interest from Quebec City and Houston among others. He also says that – as of now – there are no teams that the league sees as re-location candidates. The conference balance that the Seattle market would bring, in addition to a city with hockey history, seems to make Seattle a perfect market for expansion.
Speaking of re-location, the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t going anywhere. Bettman confirmed the report that Tom Durndon has signed the purchase agreement to buy up the majority share of the ’Canes from Peter Karmanos, but added the stern caveat that “this is not a team that will be moved.” Durndon will take on 52% of the team’s shares, with Karmanos holding on to 48% and Durndon having the option to buy the remaining shares over three years. The sale is not quite done yet, but should be in the books soon, with Durndon vowing to keep the team in Raleigh once he is in control.