Bettman: NHL to Seattle isn't imminent
Seattle hockey fans shouldn't hold their breath.
Despite the city beginning negotiations for a possible renovation of KeyArena, there is no guarantee the NHL will soon set up shop in Seattle.
"We haven't made any commitments to Seattle," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL Network Radio on Wednesday. "We're not making any commitments to expand. We're not planning on moving anybody."
Seattle has long been rumored as a future destination for the NHL. However, due in part to no NHL-ready arena in the city, Seattle did not submit a bid during the 2015 expansion process. The NHL received proposals from Las Vegas and Quebec City, with Las Vegas chosen to begin play next season.
Still, the commissioner didn't rule out of the possibility of the NHL looking at Seattle in the years to come.
"If (Seattle) sorts out the building arrangement and somebody actually puts a shovel in the ground, my guess is there will be people knocking on our door saying, 'We'd like to have a team play in that building,'" Bettman said. "If and when all that happens, then we'll focus on it, and decide if we have any interest in expanding and if we have any interest in expanding to Seattle.
"Beyond that, there is no reason for anyone to think a team is imminent right now in Seattle."
In February, the Arizona Coyotes denied a report the team explored the possibility of relocation to Seattle. The NHL, which held ownership of the Coyotes for a four-year period beginning in 2009, has remained steadfast about the market and franchise, much as it did with the Nashville Predators.
In 2007, former Research In Motion CEO Jim Balsillie attempted to gain control of the Predators and relocate the team to Hamilton, Ontario before a group of local business owners stepped forward to keep the team in Tennessee. Now, 10 years later and the Predators are two wins away from capturing the Stanley Cup, marking both of their victories in the Finals before packed and enthusiastic crowds at Bridgestone Arena.
"Sometimes, the commentary around our franchises is a little too frenetic when it comes to the state of a franchise," Bettman added. "If you think about Tampa before (owner) Jeff Vinik purchased it, Pittsburgh before Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux stepped ... the fact is, our teams are in great markets, but as franchises, as businesses, as hockey teams, you sometimes go through difficult periods.
"It doesn't mean the market isn't a good hockey market or won't support the team. There are sometimes other factors at play, and our goal is always to work through those issues and give the great, loyal fans that have supported our team in a particular place an opportunity to make it work for them."
Should the NHL add its 32nd team to Seattle, local hockey fans will have a little hockey history on their side. While the city has never iced an NHL team, it is home to the WHL's Thunderbirds. Furthermore, the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup, doing so in 1917.