Just minutes before puck drop of Game 2 of the second round series between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman held a press conference at TD Garden Saturday morning. With no news to announce, Bettman faced questions on the league’s possible targets for expansion, as well as the future of wildly popular Stadium Series.
“There hasn’t been too much talk about too much,” said Bettman when asked about possible saturation of outdoor games. “In fact, our teams and our fans are telling us they can’t get enough of them.”
Bettman acknowledged the Series’ launch may be a unique occurrence going forward, but claimed their popularity spoke for itself.
“When you look at the games and how well they were received and attended, and the attention and the popularity, I don’t think we’ve done too many. I don’t think we’ll do six,” said Bettman. “Last year was a little unique with the Olympics and going out to the Olympics, coming back from the Olympics, and the fact that we had to deal with the three teams in the New York, New Jersey area, so we were six games in five venues. We won’t do that many.”
Though pressed on rumors the Bruins could be a potential suitor, the commissioner would not comment on any future Winter Classic match-ups. Bettman did address rumors regarding the league’s expansion into Las Vegas and Seattle. As expected, his comments were noncommittal.
“Well, there’s good major junior tradition [in Seattle], there’s a lot of interest. There’s potential of a good west coast rivalry with Vancouver,” said Bettman. “But the threshold issue, before we can really seriously consider Seattle, would be whether or not there’s a building coming out of the ground. Key Arena is inadequate, and Chris Hanson, who’s the one controls the rights to build a building, is focused on an NBA team.”
For the League, the issue is not support, but location.
“So, until the building issue is one that we can understand better and be told that there’s a realistic possibility of the building coming out of the ground anytime soon, that’s not something that we can seriously consider,” said Bettman.
The prospect of a franchise in Sin City does not sound very promising either.
“I think it’s very nice for the people of Las Vegas and people who go there to visit that there will be an arena. Beyond that, we haven’t made any plans,” said Bettman. “We, as I’ve repeatedly said, have received expressions of interest from people who might want to own a franchise in Las Vegas, as we have from a number of other cities. But, we’re not involved in any expansion process.”
Bettman emphasized that the League is not in a position to expand at the moment, despite some theories based on the realignment that left the conferences lopsided.
“I get asked the question, actually a lot more, in the following way – if you have sixteen teams in the East and only fourteen teams in the West, what are you going to do to fill sixteen and sixteen? Which, by definition, creates a problem, at least in the question for Quebec City,” said Bettman.
“And I say, and I’ll say it again, we don’t expand just for purposes of symmetry.”
In addition, Bettman was asked about NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
“I watched it from afar. But, comments like those that were made are obviously inappropriate and unacceptable,” said Bettman, who served as general counsel and senior vice president of the NBA before becoming the first commissioner of the NHL in 1993.
“Based on all of the information available to him, Commissioner Silver obviously did what he believed was appropriate and right,” said Bettman.