Big gamble? NHL to explore team expansion into Las Vegas
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the Board of Governors had no objection to billionaire businessman Bill Foley exploring the level of interest in an expansion team coming to Las Vegas.
Bettman was adamant that nothing more should be read into the league's consideration of Foley's request in terms of any advancement in expansion discussions. He explained that the interest from Foley and Las Vegas raised questions about the viability of that market being able to support a team, which is why Foley wants to conduct a season-ticket drive and see what kind of numbers are achieved.
There are currently 30 franchises operating in the NHL and even though there has been interest shown by other cities in addition to Las Vegas, such as Quebec City and Seattle, there is no guarantee that enough votes would be procured to approve any expansion. That was the main point Bettman wanted to get across after this first of two days of meetings.
"There is no formal expansion process," Bettman said. "There is no vote that was taken today. There is no vote that was contemplated. We don't have an agreement to sell anybody an expansion process."
When asked why the league would even consider expansion, Bettman reiterated the growing interest from other cities in adding a team, and in Foley's case he has expressed an interest for more than a year. But the league hasn't even studied the Las Vegas market as far as its strength and no timeline has been established for an expansion process.
Pierre Dion of Quebecor attended the meeting Monday but not to discuss his pursuit of an expansion team in Quebec City. He was there strictly to address the television relationship between his TVA Sports French TV network and the league.
The other two highlights on the agenda that Bettman placed a priority on were the preliminary projections of what the salary cap will be next season and an update on the transfer of ownership of the Arizona Coyotes to Andrew Barroway.
"Our best guess, and it's gotten some variation in it, is if the Canadian dollar stays where it is now for the rest of the season, which is about .88 cents, the cap for next season would be approximately $73 million," Bettman said. "That's a guess. It's subject to variation and it also assumes that the Canadian dollar stays where it is now."
As for the Coyotes and Barroway, Bettman said that is an ongoing process that is still on track and the board is not yet ready to vote on it.
IceArizona, which purchased the Coyotes from the NHL before the 2013-14 season, agreed in October to sell a 51 percent stake to Barroway for $155 million, a deal that still must be approved by the NHL's Board of Governors.
"Commissioner Bettman provided a detailed update on the transaction to the board, including the fact that the paperwork was finalized late last week," Coyotes President Anthony LeBlanc said. "We will be working with the league to finalize this process and are on track to close by the end of the year."