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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "The Flames need a new arena"

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is turning up the heat on the city of Calgary to build a state of the art hockey arena for the Flames

Flaming out?
Flaming out?
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Don't get too excited about this, Seattle hockey fans, but there is a potential relocation scenario brewing with the NHL's Calgary Flames.

The Flames need a new arena and are pushing a proposal called CalgaryNEXT, which would build a modern hockey arena and football stadium (for the Calgary Stampede) side by side for an estimated cost of $890 million.

From CalgaryNEXT.com ~ CalgaryNEXT Multisport Fieldhouse Stadium will feature state-of-the-art sports and world-class athletic training facilities. It will be the anchor for a thriving field sport community and with the arena event centre will be the catalyst for new economic growth on the western edge of Calgary's urban core.

The Flames currently play in the Scotia Bank Saddledome, which opened in 1983 and for which the Flames' long term lease apparently expired in 2014.

Stop me if you've heard this before, but the local elected officials have been hesitant to support the project.

Stop me if you've heard this before, but the commissioner of a major sports league is now inserting himself into the situation, saying the proposal needs to be supported.

NationalPost.com reports that Bettman has now begun to light a public fire under Calgary officials.

"I'm having trouble understanding why there hasn't been further progress on CalgaryNEXT," Bettman said. "No matter what anyone thinks of the proposed CalgaryNEXT project or the cost of the project, the cost is never going to be lower than it is today.

"The longer it takes, the harder the task becomes. CalgaryNEXT needs to happen and as part of the broader project, the Flames need a new arena."

"I believe that if this project is going to happen, the mayor needs to embrace it, the city needs to embrace it," Bettman said. "If he's not prepared to embrace it, then people will have to deal with that."

The mayor didn't seem too impressed.

"Perhaps in other cities that he has come to, the city councils have just written cheques based on back-of-a-napkin proposals without any consultation to the public or without any analysis," [Mayor Naheed] Nenshi said.

"That's not how we operate here. We have a comprehensive framework in place. We'll see what the numbers look like come spring and have a very big public discussion about it."

From the mayor's interview on the video ~ "The vast, vast, vast, vast, vast majority of calls we've received on this since August have been opposed to the funding model. I think most people say that a new arena and field house would be nice for Calgary, but the discussion we have to have is precisely how much public funding does that require."

So it appears that a showdown between the NHL and the city of Calgary looms on the horizon. Could the Flames eventually relocate to someplace like, oh, I don't know, Seattle? That would seem to be a possibility - though Bettman didn't mention the R-word - but they are very early in this process and there is a ton of hockey passion in that city that will likely cause the mayor and other local officials to come to the table.

Again, this is nothing to get excited about, but we will monitor the situation.