Gary Bettman shoots down NHL expansion talk during Quebec visit

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday a report the NHL will expand by four teams was a "complete fabrication," and the league isn't looking to add any new franchises.

League commissioner says report last week was 'complete fabrication'

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, left, and Brian Mulroney, chairman of the board at Quebecor Inc., chat at the launch of the NHL season on TVA Sports network Wednesday in Boucherville, Que. Bettman called last week's report that the NHL would expand by four teams a "complete fabrication." (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Gary Bettman has vehemently denied the NHL is considering expansion.

But the commissioner said if it ever does, prospective owners may have to pay up big time.

Sports Business News reported via Twitter last week the NHL will expand into Las Vegas, Seattle, and Quebec City while adding a second franchise in Toronto by 2017.

On Wednesday, Bettman called the report a "complete fabrication," and took issue with the franchise fees cited in the story — $1.4 billion US, or $350 million per team.

Nobody's moving. And speculation to the contrary not only is wrong, it's unfair to the team and their fans who are being speculated about.- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on reports the league is expanding

"The part of the story that I found particularly difficult is: suggesting that we would sell four franchises for $1.4 billion is way too low," Bettman said from Boucherville, Que. "It undervalues our franchises."

Bettman said the league is not looking to expand or relocate any franchises. He added that no teams were looking to move, including the struggling Florida Panthers, even if their new owner has concerns about the club's arena lease.

"Nobody's moving," said Bettman. "And speculation to the contrary not only is wrong, it's unfair to the team and their fans who are being speculated about.

"Our franchises have never been healthier. Our league, in terms of its economic footing, has never been healthier."

The NHL hasn't expanded since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild joined for the 2000-01 season.

On Wednesday, Bettman said there's plenty of interest from people wanting NHL expansion teams but added the league hasn't researched the issue.

He made the remarks at an event put on by a media company, Quebecor, that hopes to bring NHL hockey back to Quebec City.​

Bettman and former prime minister Brian Mulroney helped launch TVA's arrival as the main French hockey broadcasters beginning this season. TVA is a privately owned French language television network based in Montreal.

Mulroney is the chairman of Quebecor, the media company that owns TVA and hopes to land an NHL team in Quebec City.

Quebecor bought naming rights on a $400 million arena due to be completed by fall 2015 in Quebec City, which hopes to land an NHL club.

Bettman had no encouraging words for those looking to revive the Quebec Nordiques, who left in 1994 to become the Colorado Avalanche.

"We don't want to build up anybody's expectations," he said. "We're not in a position to expand.

"We're certainly not in position to expand into the East. We've been very candid and up front that if in fact we go through an expansion process, the world will know about it. But we're not looking to relocate any franchises, and we're not looking to expand. We've been very clear about that since Day One when we were told about the building of the new arena."

Gretzky eyeing team?

In July, the agent for former NHL great Wayne Gretzky denied a report his client is among a group of investors looking to bring a team to Seattle.

Two months earlier, Bettman visited the city for an update on a proposed new arena.

Toronto and Quebec long have been considered candidates should the NHL choose to expand beyond the seven Canadian-based clubs.

Quebec hasn't had an NHL team since the Nordiques moved to Denver in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche.

It's possible Toronto could support a second NHL franchise, in the city proper or surrounding suburbs.

Markham, Ont., just north of Toronto, has flirted with the idea of funding the construction of an NHL-sized arena, but those plans have stalled.

In other news, Bettman said the league is close to naming a successor to Brendan Shanahan as disciplinarian and head of player safety. Shanahan stepped down in April and was replaced on an interim basis by Stephane Quintal.

"We're getting to the short strokes of that process," said Bettman. "We've interviewed a lot of candidates, including somebody who's been doing it on an interim basis, and we will be making a decision shortly.

"We wanted to finish the process. By the start of the season, we'll have an announcement."


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