No Canadian expansion any time soon

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

NEW YORK -- "Woe, Canada! Our Home and Native Land. Six teams in all, the NHL can stand."

Hockey officials, investors, media and fans in Winnipeg, Hamilton, Quebec City and Halifax can all relax -- they won't be invited to the NHL table any time soon.

That's the impression I got while visiting the Manhattan head office of the NHL the other day, and asking what the chances were of another Canadian city getting an NHL franchise.

Across from me in his office sat NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, a cagey lawyer who refused to discuss the possibility of another Canuck team joining the world's premier shinny loop, either through expansion or relocation.

He conceded a bit by saying: "With the new collective bargaining agreement and new facilities, such possibilities could be investigated."

I had several other questions for him. For instance, I wanted to know about the quality of the ice surface in the various arenas.

At the Air Canada Centre, kids play hockey between periods before the Zambonis move in and do their job.

ZAMBONIS

"First of all, I don't think those little kids can hurt the ice," Bettman said. "Secondly, we have a rule whereby the ice has to be cleared with 12 minutes to go in the intermission so the Zambonis can properly clear the ice. The rules also call for two Zambonis to be in every arena.

"These rules apply to every arena and we have a full-time ice expert, Dan Craig, who makes sure that there is first-class ice in all arenas."

Bettman also defended the new rules which have helped to speed up the game and increase scoring.

For instance, the new rules for goaltending equipment.

"The safety of the goalies is of paramount importance to us," Bettman said.

"However, the old equipment that was to protect the goalies was in fact protecting the net. We believe the present goalie rules are fair. They were well thought out and don't have just one parent."

More Canadian entries into the NHL, or not, good ice surface, or not, new rules, or not, it is clear who is in charge of the National Hockey League.


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