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Bettman comments on the “E” word

If you are in Seattle, before you read this piece, say three times out loud: “There are no guarantees. There are no guarantees. There are no guarantees.”

Gary Bettman was speaking at the Prime Time Sports Management Conference in Toronto this morning where Yahoo NHL reporter, Nick Cotsonika, captured this nugget from the Commissioner.

Bettman says NHL is not looking at formal expansion process.

— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) November 11, 2013

This drove me and probably only me into a frenzy on the use of the word “formal”. (I felt like John Cusack in High Fidelity) I immediately speculated that they will just announce any expansion team or teams. There will be no biding war of cities. The league knows which locations can been successful and what is good for the league (i.e. TV).  Prospective owners will “apply” behind the scenes and the NHL will vet the location and owners for viability. I was hanging a lot on the inclusion of one word in a tweet. Could I be right? Bettman always chooses his words wisely and I thought this was very deliberate on his part. And then Nick confirmed after the talk:

Boom…well not that big of a deal but let’s get into it. Clearly the NHL will approve and process everything behind the scenes. What gets me excited is connecting all the dots over the last 6 months or so from the league:

Exhibit 1: Elliotte Friedman reports Seattle was plan B for Coyotes & the NHL blocked Vancouver from relocating their AHL team to Seattle.

Exhibit 2: Bill Daly says Northwest would get ‘serious consideration’ for new team,

Exhibit 3: Back in April, Bettman was talking with reporters and he kind of tipped his hand a bit when being asked about Seattle. For the record, this is the first time I’ve heard Bettman even mention Seattle and he certainly slipped a bit here.

Asked about Seattle as a potential NHL market in general, Bettman spoke highly.

“The research I’ve seen tells me that it would be a very strong hockey market,” Bettman said. “I haven’t looked at it in detail, but it’s all anecdotal and third hand. Obviously if there were a team in Seattle, it might foster a pretty decent rivalry with the northern neighbor, namely Vancouver.”

There was a pause and awkward silence after that. Bettman seemed to realize how that might come across, not only because of the Coyotes, but because of a new realignment of the league that seems destined for 32 teams.

“But that doesn’t mean that anybody should take from that comment that we’re necessarily focused on Seattle or we’re planning on expanding there,” Bettman added quickly. “You asked the question about Seattle. I wouldn’t have raised it. But it’s obviously an interesting market.

Dots connected. There are a lot of dependencies and conditions here so let’s take a deep breadth and appreciate being part of the conversation and remember….

There are no guarantees.

There are no guarantees.

There are no guarantees.

John Barr
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