NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman decided to rain a little bit of on the parade of people ready to use the Oak View Group’s indoctrination as KeyArena developers as a welcoming party for the NHL. In an interview with the NHL Radio Network on Wednesday, Bettman had this to say about a team coming to Seattle:
"We haven't made any commitments to Seattle. We're not making any commitments to expand. We're not planning on moving anybody."
Of course, we could all point back to how many times Bettman said the league wasn’t going to expand at all before ultimately announcing the opening of the expansion process subsequently awarding the Vegas Golden Knights to billionaire Bill Foley. Bettman hasn’t changed his stance, however, that the league wants tangible evidence of an arena actively being built.
"If (Seattle) sorts out the building arrangement and somebody actually puts a shovel in the ground, my guess is there will be people knocking on our door saying, 'We'd like to have a team play in that building. If and when all that happens, then we'll focus on it, and decide if we have any interest in expanding and if we have any interest in expanding to Seattle.
Beyond that, there is no reason for anyone to think a team is imminent right now in Seattle."
It’s somewhat curious in my eyes that Bettman would say “my guess is there will be people knocking on our door,” when he knows that billionaire David Bonderman, who the league has confirmed talking to, and movie mogul Jerry Bruckheimer are looking to be owners. Could it be more Bettman doublespeak?
There have been questions of whether the NBA and NHL would approve a renovated KeyArena since before the Oak View Group even appeared on the scene here in Seattle. This morning, at least part of that question was answered by KIRO 710's Mike Salk.
Seattle Arena News:— Mike Salk, 710 ESPN (@TheMikeSalk) June 8, 2017
Was told by a high level NHL exec that Bettman has seen the OVG plans, has indicated they're acceptable for the league.
It's not entirely surprising, given that OVG CEO Tim Leiweke has said repeatedly that his group would work to meet both leagues' specifications, but it does offer some semblance of confirmation. Salk did double down on Bettman’s comments somewhat however…
That isn't a promise of a team or anything, but should quell fears that the NHL would have any objection to the site or the building.— Mike Salk, 710 ESPN (@TheMikeSalk) June 8, 2017
Certainly, there is no promise and no guarantee of a team until all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed, but with two viable arena plans being offered up, we appear to be closer than we’ve ever been.