NHL beings to explore expansion by accepting applications for franchises

After one day of meetings, the NHL announced that it is officially going to explore expansion, confirming what has been reported on for the last year. The league also announce that it will be accepting formal applications from interested parties, primarily Seattle, Las Vegas, and Quebec City.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced during Wednesday press conference that the NHL is starting to look into expansion, and whether or not the Board of Governors will agree to add more franchise to the 30-team league. The commissioner commented on serious interest from Las Vegas, Quebec City, and Seattle. Those three cities have been at the focus of NHL expansion rumors over the last year, or so, therefore it isn’t terribly surprising that the commissioner brought them up during the press conference.

Any potential investors from those cities are going to have to pay through the teeth, as Bettman reiterated that he expects the expansion fee to be around $500 million. The fee would be split among the 30, existing, franchises — that’s an average of $16.7 million for each current franchise, per expansion team…or $50.1 million per franchise if three teams are added.

The NHL will be excepting formal applications from interested parties from July 6th until August 10th. After the window closes the league will then begin to review the potential ownership groups and arenas (or arena plans) to determine which cities will get any of the new franchises…if any. Bettman also made it clear that the league had not decided on a number of franchises to be added, or the timeline for these (potential) franchises to begin play; although deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the NHL doesn’t anticipate adding any teams by the 2017-18 season.

Quebec City and Las Vegas are probably in the lead for an expansion franchise as both cities have brand new — NHL ready — arenas under construction. Seattle has to competing arena proposals, one of which is in the suburbs…it remains seeing if either arena will get built.

The Board of Governors is currently meeting in Las Vegas, and has a lot to discuss during the next couple of days. At the top of their list has to be the future of the Arizona Coyotes, as Glendale, Ariz.’s City Council voted to terminate the team’s lease at Gila River Arena earlier in June.

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