A few events happened this week that might have a peripheral impact to Seattle’s NHL expansion hopes down the road.
First, let me be clear and set appropriate expectations. Seattle is not part of the current expansion process and will not get awarded a team any time soon. The league is evaluating two different NHL expansion application submissions from last summer, Quebec City and Las Vegas. Since late fall, the rumors and “sources” have foreshadowed that the NHL is leaning toward awarding a franchise to one team, Las Vegas.
Current expansion process
On Monday, Gary Bettman gave his annual state of the game address before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs where he said two items of note (regarding expansion):
- The league should be able to definitively announce their intent on the current expansion process by June 22nd.
- An announcement could have three different scenarios:
- No expansion
- Expansion by 1 team or 2 teams
- Defer the expansion process further
That might not be the biggest news, but at least it implies some closure on the current process and, since Seattle is not part of the current process, it would be nice to see it closed. I have said it before, NHL to Seattle fans will be rooting for a 1 team expansion to Las Vegas. That will create a 31 team league with 15 in the West and 16 in the East. 31 teams doesn’t sound like a final number and I could almost guarantee they would go to 32 within a couple years of being at 31. Does that guarantee Seattle? No, but it does give an NHL ownership group time to figure out our little arena issue. It remains to be seen if those “ownership groups” are even still out there. Speculative, but I imagine any groups out there were waiting for the SODO outcome before putting in the hard work to figure out an alternative arena plan.
Quebec City & Quebecor
At a speaking engagement in Montreal, Brian Mulroney, the president of Quebecor and Quebec City NHL expansion applicant, reiterated his opinion that the time might not be right for the NHL to come back to Quebec City. It certainly feels like he is lowering expectations for fans to be a little more patient in their quest for the return of the Nordiques. It has never been stated, but I can’t help to think that he has been in regular communications with the NHL and has some idea how this current expansion process will fall out. If the league expands by 1 or defers the expansion process, it could give the Canadian Dollar some time to rebound which would lower their cost of expansion. (The cost of expansion to Quebecor would be ~$650M CAD vs. $515M CAD just three years ago). Could this mean that Seattle and Quebec City compete for that 32 spot? Perhaps, but we should get more clarity by the 22nd and again we still need to figure out that small little arena issue.
Bettman talks Seattle
“It’s not like we’re pining after Seattle. There were three different groups from three different places in Seattle saying they had interest, but nobody seemed to get their act together as far as a new arena” – Gary Bettman on Sportsnet 590
Bettman essentially says what we already know, but he is paying attention and remains positive on Seattle as a quality market. That might not mean much at this time but hopefully an ownership group emerges soon.
To sum it up, our hopes are pinned on a 1 team expansion announcement from the NHL and a viable arena plan to come forward from an ownership group we have never heard of or haven’t heard from in a while. If it plays out, I don’t think there is anyway the arena will land in the Seattle city limits. It will require a much more agile city to get things done and in my opinion, the current Seattle City Council made it clear that they don’t want an arena.
Carolina on my mind
I would also be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the current situation in Carolina. Most of you know by now that I have never been an advocate for relocation and Carolina is no different. It has been widely reported that Peter Karmanos has been trying to sell Carolina Hurricanes for a couple years now which has led to speculation over the last several months that they would be a relocation target to Quebec City. These reports have been refuted by the League and Karmanos himself, but this week, Peter Karmanos’s sons sued their father for failure to pay back a loan several years ago of over $100Million from the Karamano’s trust that was used to prop up the Hurricanes. That seems to shed a bit of light to how dire the situation may be in Carolina. How this plays out is anyone’s guess but if Karmanos can’t find a buyer that wants to keep the team in Carolina, I am sure Quebec City would pay above (the Carolina) market price. Because I hate the thought of relocation, I am going to put this as unlikely until we hear more.