NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s recent trip to Minnesota was mainly a scouting mission to Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium — both potential sites for future outdoor games.
While he was there, though, Bettman also spoke about something the league hasn’t seen in nearly 15 years: expansion.
“There’s a lot of interest,” Bettman told the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo on Monday. “We’re hearing from multiple groups in Seattle … in Vegas, in Kansas City, in Quebec City. We haven’t decided to engage in a formal expansion process, but as we always do, we listen to expressions of interest. … There may be good reasons to expand, there may be not. It’s not something we’ve seriously considered yet.”
Russo points out that the 30-team league is “built for 32,” as the Eastern Conference now has two more clubs than the West under the most recent realignment. That would theoretically make cities in the western parts of the United States and Canada (see: Seattle, Las Vegas) much more desirable expansion spots for the league.
The case for Seattle is strongest of all, as the Seattle Times quoted sources last week as saying an NHL team could begin playing in the Emerald City as early as the 2015-16 season if a new arena deal can be finalized “within six months or so.”
Russo’s sources also called Vegas, which has never hosted a team in the four major professional leagues, “a legit option.”
The NHL last expanded in 2000, when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets entered the league.