NHL commissioner Gary Bettman waffled on the idea of struggling U.S.-based franchises moving to Canada or teams coming here through expansion.
There has been plenty of talk the NHL could relocate teams to either Quebec City or Winnipeg.
“I’m not in a position to answer that because we’re not expanding right now. We’re not looking to relocate,” said Bettman. “As hard as we fought to keep the Senators alive and well in Ottawa, that’s what we do in other places because we think we have a covenant with our fans everywhere to try and make it work.
“So, we try to avoid relocation. If there’s going to be an expansion, or there’s going to be a relocation – as I’ve said repeatedly – under the right circumstances, with an arena and ownership, we’d like to go back to places that perhaps we left. But, I’m not in a position to set a time-table or have any guess as to whether that’s going to happen any time soon.”
Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau would like to bring an NHL franchise back to Quebec City if a new arena is built.
Bettman said he has a good relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but isn’t going to wade into the argument over public funding for an NHL arena in Quebec City.
“The arena debate is not something we’re going to get involved in,” said Bettman. “I don’t want to set anybody off on things that are purely speculative. I’ve said if there’s a new arena and there’s suitable ownership, what we’d like to do is figure out a way of dealing with going back to Quebec City. We’re intrigued by the possibility and, under the right circumstances, we’d like to go back.”
Bettman added an arena in Winnipeg is not an issue, but the league doesn’t want to relocate any franchises. He said the city of Glendale is working with two groups trying to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, but the team has been without an owner for 18 months.
If that deal can’t be worked out, the Coyotes are expected to be sold to Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment.
“Winnipeg gets strong consideration because we’d like to go back to places we’ve left,” said Bettman.