Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bettman sees no moves to Canada in the short term

"At the current time we are not considering any relocations, and we don't have a formal expansion process," Gary Bettman on Hockey Night in Canada

Put away your wallet Mr. Balsillie and Winnipeg, Hamilton and Quebec City can put away their pom poms. In Gary Bettman’s NHL, six is super, seven unlikely.

During Mr. Bettman’s all star break media availability session on Hockey Night in Canada, he seemed to throw cold water on any potential movement to the usual suspects of locations for Canadian hockey.

And while he appeared to leave the door open a crack for the faithful in Canada’s always ready to roll cities; the likelihood of an existing team moving north seems less and less likely under his watch.

If ever a team was to be moved north, it would surely have been done when Jim Balsillie was opening up his vast fortune of blackberry bucks to the NHL, anxious to join the fraternity but only if he could take his investment to where he felt it would have its best chance for success.

Those locations would not be Kansas City, Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas or even staying the course in Nashville, but instead just a few miles down the road from the leagues keystone franchises.

His desire to move the Predators to Southern Ontario met with stiff resistance and in the end he was left on the margins as that sale twisted into an interesting pretzel of NHL machinations.

When the dust settled in the great Predators sell off, the Preds remained in Nashville (for now), Boots Del Biaggio picked up a useful hunk of them (plus some moving quotes for a trip to Kansas City) and former owner Craig Leipold took his haircut then, for a shampoo a few weeks later when he was able to purchase the Minnesota Wild with little in the way of stumbling blocks.

Everybody came out of that one happy, with the exception of Balsillie and hockey fans in Hamilton and southern Ontario, perhaps a feeling that both they and hockey fans in Winnipeg and Quebec City should get used to as long as the current regime is in place.

It’s interesting to note that Mr. Bettman’s ruminations on Canadian additions, came in the same session as the announcement that the NHL plans on hosting another great outdoor classic next year.

A symbolic reminder if you will, that when it comes to increasing Canadian locations in the NHL, the idea will also be something that is going to be rather cold.

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