NHL

NHL in no rush to decide on expansion, 2018 Olympics

At some point the NHL must decide whether to expand to Quebec, Las Vegas, both or neither, and whether to send its players to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea. But commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated Monday there's plenty of time before anything is figured out on those fronts.

Olympic call will happen 'approximately in the next year,' Bettman says

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that no final decision will be made on expansion at the next board of governors meeting in December. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

As Quebec City, Las Vegas and Pyeongchang wait, the NHL is in no rush to make big decisions.

At some point the league must decide whether to expand to Quebec, Las Vegas, both or neither, and whether to send its players to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea. But officials reiterated Monday there's plenty of time before anything is figured out on those fronts.

Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that no final decision will be made on expansion at the next board of governors meeting in December. The executive committee is set to meet to discuss the applications by Quebecor and Bill Foley's Black Knight Sports & Entertainment, but there's no timeline for a recommendation.

"We're being very deliberate, very careful and very thorough," Bettman said Monday. "This is an important business decision, and it doesn't get governed by PR or politics or various pressures. You've got to make a decision for the right reasons."

In remarks during the Prime Time Sports Management Conference, Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly emphasized that the NHL was focused more on the long-term value of its business and franchises than on the short-term boon of expansion fees. Adding one more team could earn the owners upwards of $500 million US and the same additional amount with a second expansion team.

That comes with a catch.

"It's not a quick cash grab," Bettman said. "People think, 'Well of course you're going to expand, you get all this money.' Not so fast because [league revenues get] divided 30 ways. If you bring in another team, it gets divided into 31 ways. That has an economic consequence."

The earliest expansion would happen to either Las Vegas or Quebec City would be the 2017-18 season. Pointing to the Nashville Predators' expansion process in the late 1990s, Daly said he wouldn't rule out that still being realistic even if a decision isn't made until sometime in 2016.

"If we get to that stage, I think we're obviously going to be consulting with the applicants with respect to their progression, planning and their ability to get up and running as quickly as that," Daly said.

Bettman and Daly also preached patience on the Olympics in the aftermath of meeting in New York with officials from the NHL Players' Association and International Ice Hockey Federation about 2018 and beyond. The league's focus is currently on the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, its own event that will take place in Toronto.

But Bettman said "approximately in the next year" the NHL and players will have to make a decision about going to Pyeongchang and then Beijing in 2022. The commissioner said Beijing "alters the dynamic" of the conversation because of the opportunity the Chinese market might present.

"The question is would the fact that the Winter Olympics in Beijing would introduce that country to hockey give us an opportunity to make a real impression in China, where hockey is really in an embryonic state," Bettman said. "That's a discussion we have to have to determine whether or not there is an opportunity to grow the game in China by using the winter games with NHL players as a catalyst."

On the subject of the Florida Panthers' reported loss of $80.2 million in the past three years and the team asking Broward County for money, Bettman and Daly again voiced support for that market.

"We have very strong ownership in Florida," Daly said. "I think the situation can be improved there, I think it will be improved there and I certainly don't have any concerns about that franchise long term."

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