Gary Bettman has had his fair share of tough times as NHL commissioner, but he is starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. That light includes hundreds of millions in TV revenue, a gaggle of new owners and a new franchise in southern Ontario.
According to The Globe and Mail, Bettman is buttering up potential new owners with talk of new television contracts totaling $500 million a year. The NHL's current U.S. deals with NBC and Versus are worth $75 million a year, but after hockey's exposure in the Vancouver Olympics, that money could more than double when the contracts expire in June 2011.
The revenue from television deals are split among the league and each of its 30 teams, and thanks to the promise of loot, Bettman already has found new ownership for both of Florida's struggling teams. Now, Bettman is focused on finding a somebody to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, who are under NHL ownership after going bankrupt last year.
Selling the Coyotes could force the team to move north of the border and back to Winnipeg if Bettman cannot entice prospective American buyers to pony up enough financing.
Even if the Coyotes remain in the Southwest, Canada could have another NHL team of its own in a few years. With a rumored $400 million expansion fee, Bettman is interested in bringing another team to southern Ontario, with northern Toronto the prohibited favorite.
Ignoring the fact that overexpansion was a causal factor in the NHL lockout, the expansion team would be joining an already bustling market that throws its support behind the Maple Leafs. According to a Globe and Mail source, to expand the league in north Toronto, Bettman would need the Leafs' approval, something that could be difficult to negotiate considering a new franchise could take fans and revenue from the Original Six franchise.