NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has consistently said that expansion is not on the immediate horizon, but that the league continues to listen to "expressions of interest."
It is interesting to note, however, that league officials continue to hop on a plane and fly to cities to listen to those expressions, as opposed to nonchalantly taking the occasional phone call. It was true when Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly flew to Seattle with a potential ownership group to meet with local officials last summer and it was true over the weekend when Daly met with a potential expansion group, while in Las Vegas on "other business."
If you don't think the league is wanting to expand, you are not paying attention.
Expansion to Sin City was the topic of Daly's latest meeting, according to a Startribune.com report.
And NHL officials no longer are striking down the notion that expansion might be on the horizon. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Monday that, while in Las Vegas for other business this past weekend, he met again with a potential ownership group that has expressed an interest in owning a franchise.
Daly, in an interview in his Manhattan office, said he also got a chance to tour the site next to New York New York Hotel and Casino where a $350 million, 20,000-seat arena is being built by MGM Resorts. MGM also has had preliminary talks with the potential owners who want the arena to house their prospective NHL team. The arena is expected to be completed by 2016, and Daly looked at suite mock-ups: "It's nice," he said.
Several markets - from Quebec City, to a second team near Toronto, to Seattle, Las Vegas and Kansas City are interested in an expansion franchise. Some reports estimate the NHL could command expansion fees of $500 million to north of $1 billion, proving a lot has changed since the days of $50 million expansion fees for teams like Anaheim and Florida - and since 1997, when Bob Naegele's group paid $80 million to bring the NHL back to Minnesota.
A read of the entire article will reveal that one of the concerns is whether or not Las Vegas would have a consistent base of LOCAL support for a franchise, and not just support from high rollers who are given tickets from the casinos in town.
As for Seattle, nothing has changed in the NHL's position.
Seattle also is considered a viable expansion option, but things are on hold there because hedge fund manager Chris Hansen has an agreement with the city and county to build an arena, but it's tied in with an NBA team, which Hansen has yet to secure.
"Nothing has happened quickly in Seattle to this point, so there's a lot of uncertainty there," Daly said.
As much as Bettman says the league isn't taking a serious look at expansion, it is. Likewise, as much as I would like to think that the league will ONLY expand if Seattle is involved, I don't. I do think that Seattle is at the top of the NHL's wish list, but to think that expansion only works if the Emerald City gets one of the franchises? I just don't buy it.
I realize that an NHL first scenario for our proposed SoDo arena is a prototypical long shot, but make no mistake about it. I'm rooting for it with passion.
UPDATE WITH DANIELS TWEETS
Here's some passages from the article Daniels linked.
The league has not determined a timetable for expansion, but two western US cities are expected to be selected for new franchises, according to reports.
The NHL is not expected to decide on expansion until its settles on a second city - as there are two more Eastern Division teams than Western Division teams, a hockey source said.
A $400 million franchise fee would be five times higher than the $80 million fee charged both the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000, the last time the league expanded.