November 12, 2014 | 3:50pm ET
David Pagnotta offers the latest surrounding the noise of expansion in the
TORONTO, ON -- A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the NHL Premiere
going to be returning, either next season or in 2016-17,
and then I went off on a little tangent about NHL expansion.
At the time, it seemed like Quebec City was the front runner for an
expansion franchise, in terms of having an arena ready for next fall
and an ownership group itching to get their claws on a team.
Las Vegas and Seattle, in that order, followed.
Nothing has really changed. Those three markets are still on track for
getting an NHL franchise.
Except, it's all or nothing. (Spoiler: It's happening)
The NHL wants two new teams in the Western Conference. That's a given.
Seattle was No.1 on the list, but (as I wrote about
on Oct. 25), their
arena issues are a bit of a pain, right now.
Long story short: Chris Hansen, who has the rights to build a new
sports arena in Seattle, went in with the NBA-first mentality and sold
the city on that idea. Now that it looks like the NBA isn't coming to
the city any time soon, the framework (who's paying for what) for an
arena has to be restructured under an NHL-first plan.
The NHL wants to be in Seattle. Seattle wants an NHL team... but they
cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye want an NBA
So, at some point, that will iron itself out. But for argument's sake,
they're "third" on the list. Arena = team.
Back to Quebec, for a moment.
The fanbase has been screaming for an NHL team for years. They need
one. They deserve one. They don't care where it comes from. They don't
care who tells them it won't be Florida. Or Carolina. Or Arizona. They
want a team.
As much as it may seem ridiculously unbelievable to believe, the NHL
is not relocating a franchise to Quebec City. There's a really good
chance they aren't relocating a franchise anywhere.
Yes, the Panthers'
attendance is embarrassing. We get it. They're (slowly) trying to
remedy that situation. But, again, they're not moving. And there are
other factors involved than simply
the hockey team. Get over it.
If anyone's moving, it's the Coyotes, and it would appear only to a
But with a new ownership group selling their majority stake to another
new ownership group (and nobody really saw that coming, but it's a
brilliant business move -- I mean, seriously, they bought the team for
$170 million and are selling 51 per cent for $155 million. Who
wouldn't do that?) I don't think that's in the cards.
Granted, the Coyotes are in a tough spot on the ice, and that will
affect attendance, but they've made a crapload of gains with a new
arena sponsor, some cool and unique promotional ideas, tailgating
events, and much more.
Never say never. They look like they're on the right track, but
they're, without a doubt, the X-factor in all of this expansion
So, Quebec, be
more patienter patient.
The wheels are in motion. Like I said, there's a catch. In order to
get a team, two new teams have to be added to the West. (Spoiler:
Which brings us back to Las Vegas.
The New York Post reported this morning that a group led by
billionaire William Foley and the Maloof family has been chosen as the
ownership group that will bring an NHL franchise to Sin City.
I'm not going to lie, I was a little surprised about that bit of
information. And believe me, I'm not the only one. But at least it's
another step towards E-X-P-A-N-S-I-O-N!
The reported franchise expansion fee is "about $400 million,"
according to the Post. That's a little lower than I expected, about
$100 million lower, but it's nothing to shy away from.
The NHL wants to be in Vegas... as much as they want to be in Seattle,
and as much as they'll take the money to be back in Quebec. I mean,
they aren't going to say no to $1.2 billion to $1.5 million worth of
expansion fees, especially when all that money goes to the owners.
Let me simplify things: Las Vegas and Quebec City are locks, according
to a well-placed sourced. I can't guarantee this, because, you know,
anything can happen, but... (Spoiler: It's happening)
Further to that, the location for 2015 NHL Awards is in limbo. The
last two events (2012 and 2014) took place at the Wynn Las Vegas &
Encore Resort, with no contract in place for 2015. This might have
something to do with the league's expansion plans (MGM is building the
arena, and the Maloofs own the Palms Casino Resort, where the Awards
were held from 2009-2011), or it could simply mean their initial
three-year contract didn't carry over when the lockout wiped out the
Don't expect to hear any announcements any time soon, though.
There isn't going to be a press conference next month, or during
All-Star Weekend, where Commissioner Gary Bettman is going to announce
expansion to Las Vegas, and then announce expansion to Quebec City in
the summer, and then expansion to Seattle next fall.
The NHL wants to get everything ironed out, all at once, before they
Officially, and formally, nothing is finalized. There's still work to
be done. But you've heard the spoiler alerts by now, haven't you?
Alright, so with Quebec City and Las Vegas
unofficially all set,
what the hell's going on in Seattle?
Haven't you been reading? Okay, I meant aside from their arena woes...
Well, Arizona has a big impact on all of this expansion chatter. IF
Andrew Barroway decides to flip the team in a few years and they're
forced to relocate, where could they end up? Will it be Seattle? Will
the NHL wait that long? What if Hansen and the city is prepared to
move ahead with an NHL-first plan for their arena and the NHL already
announces plans to move to the Emerald City?
This is where it gets weird.
Remember that town in Western Missouri? They've got that
state-of-the-art arena with ties to the NHL? Yeah, them.
According two separate sources, the NHL is once again taking a hard
and close look at Kansas City, either for expansion or relocation.
They're covering their bases, and if the league expands to Las Vegas
and Seattle, and ends up having to relocate the Coyotes, this could be
their only option.
early, so let's not get too crazy about the whole thing, but the NHL
is weighing its options.
What About Toronto 2.0?
Everyone in the NHL is very interested to see what ends up happening
in Toronto. When will a second NHL franchise invade Maple Leafs
Well, it doesn't sound like they're part of the plans, just yet. And
I've been told by multiple people in/around the NHL and the Leafs that
a second Toronto team would not play out of the Air Canada Centre. If
a second team comes to Toronto, they'll need their own facility.
All that talk about an arena coming to Markham, a suburb of Toronto,
made sense, in terms of housing a new NHL franchise, but it's far from
happening... and it may never happen. But if a group is interested in
coughing up the ridiculous expansion and territorial fees required to
bring a second team to Toronto, they'll also have to
pay for a new arena.
There are some whispers that Bell Media and Rogers could buyout the
other's stake in the Maple Leafs and spearhead the group going up
against the Buds, but that's questionable, at best, right now.
Bell, in fact, is taking a big stance in returning the Expos to
Montreal. According to three separate sources (why is he talking
about baseball now, what happened to hockey?), Bell will be a
major player in a group willing to purchase the Tampa Bay Rays and
move them to Montreal. With the money invested in such a buy, along
with the money needed to go into a new stadium, Bell might not want to
rid itself of the Leafs and dish out the cash for another Toronto NHL
team. (The Rogers own the Blue Jays. Rivalry pukefest).
I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about all of this expansion talk
We know what the Quebec City team will be called, so maybe we can
brainstorm what the Las Vegas and Seattle teams should be named?
David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of
The Fourth Period. Follow