Gary Bettman says Calgary needs new arena for Olympics (but IOC disagrees)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterates that he doesn't feel there's a path forward for a new arena in Calgary anytime soon.

NHL commissioner also suggests city wants Flames' ownership group to fund 100% of new facility

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the Flames owners and the City of Calgary are 'not on the same wavelength." (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has reiterated that he doesn't feel there's a path forward for a new arena in Calgary anytime soon.

Bettman spoke to Hockey Night in Canada's Ron MacLean at the NHL All-Star game, where he expressed his thoughts on the standoff between the City of Calgary and the Calgary Flames over building a replacement for the Saddledome.

"From talking to ownership in Calgary on a regular basis, they're not on the same wavelength.... The location, the vision for the area surrounding, they're just in two different places. So the Flames ownership is giving up," he said Sunday.

Talks between the city and the Flames broke down last summer after the city effectively shuttered a proposed CalgaryNext complex in the downtown west end. 

Bettman vs. IOC

Bettman said that if Calgary is to have a successful bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, it'll need a new arena.

"It may be that an Olympic bid fails cause there's not going to be a new arena, and clearly if there's going to be an Olympics in Calgary, which would be great again, they need a new arena," Bettman said.

But that's not what the Olympic committee thinks.

Last Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee assured the city, after examining the facilities, that the Saddledome would be an acceptable venue for both hockey and figure skating at the Olympics.

Bettman also suggested on Sunday that the city was attempting to force the team to fund the entire project.

"No matter how the city dresses it up, they're looking for the Flames to pay for the entire building, and that doesn't make sense," Bettman said.

However, the city's proposed funding for the project actually suggest a three-way split on the $555-million arena between the team's ownership, the city and arena users through a ticket surcharge. And in the city's plan, the Flames group would collect 100 per cent of the new arena's revenue, but the group would have to pay property taxes.

Nenshi unimpressed

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who has publicly sparred with Bettman in the past, was dismissive of the comments. 

"Sadly, I was busy preparing my council meeting and I did not watch them," he said, when asked to comment on Monday.

When told the gist of Bettman's comments, Nenshi said there was nothing new to respond to. 

"It's always fun when Mr. Bettman chimes in on this. Nothing has changed."

The Saddledome, which opened in 1983, is the second-oldest arena in the NHL.

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation is set to release a draft plan for the neighbourhood near the Saddledome in coming weeks, which could include plans for a new arena.

With files from Scott Dippel