As the NHL prepared for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals on Monday, commissioner Gary Bettman took time to address several questions and issues surrounding the sport at a press conference. Here are five key takeaways:
Bettman reiterated that NHL expansion into Seattle won't be formally approved at next month's Board of Governors meetings. However, the commissioner noted that owners will be provided with an update on the process, and added that a formal vote could come as early as this fall.
The hope is for Seattle to join the NHL for the 2020-21 season. In order for that to happen, one major step that needs to be completed is the renovation of the 1960-built KeyArena, the future home of a potential team.
Perhaps not all hope is lost for hockey in Quebec's capital.
When asked about the concerns of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who chairs the NHL's executive board, that Quebec City's market would struggle to support a new team, Bettman was quick to note that expansion requires approval from three-quarters of the NHL's 31 owners, and that Jacobs holds only a single vote.
Quebec City was part of the NHL's most recent expansion process along with Las Vegas. But while Sin City received the stamp of approval, Quebec City's bid was deferred due to the slumping Canadian dollar and a desire to correct the league's geographic imbalance.
Meanwhile, could the NHL consider another southern U.S. market as its next expansion opportunity? Tilman Fertitta, the new owner of the NBA's Houston Rockets, has expressed interest in bringing hockey to the Texas hub.
In a media scrum following Monday's press conference, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told TSN's Frank Seravalli that while the league has had discussions with Fertitta about placing a team in Houston, there's no sense that the potential ownership group will file an application in the near future.
Following the recent groundbreaking decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the federal ban on sports gambling, Bettman made it clear that the NHL wants in on the action.
"I'm not sure I buy the term 'integrity fee.' I don't worry about the integrity of our players," Bettman said. "I think, though, if you're going to allocate for yourself to run a business on our intellectual property and on the performance of our athletes, and the platform that we put on for our games, we're entitled to be involved in that."
For fans of franchises like the St. Louis Blues, who haven't had a Stanley Cup victory in their 50-year history, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who haven't won it all since 1967, it's surely frustrating to see the Golden Knights advance to the Stanley Cup Final in their very first season.
Still, Bettman views it as a feel-good story.
"The bond is real between this city and its first-ever major league professional sports team. The connection is undeniable," he said. "This is the magic of sports. Anything can happen."
So, what happens if the Golden Knights capture Lord Stanley? Could the fans actually cheer - rather than boo, as they usually do in other cities - when Bettman hands over the Cup? "That might be interesting," he quipped, before adding that the Vegas fans booed him at the event when the team was named.
Few talking points have been bigger in the world of hockey than head injuries, as concussions, particularly to enforcers, have seen many former players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The neurodegenerative disease was found in the brain tissue of several deceased NHL players, including Steve Montador and Bob Probert.
But there have been no new developments, according to Bettman.
"I'm not going to start another news cycle," he said. "There's nothing new on the subject."
Daly, also on hand for the press conference, added: "This is not the commissioner's view, but follows science."
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)