Bettman won’t close the door on NHL’s return to Quebec, but nothing imminent

Gary Bettman says he’s always happy to meet elected officials.

And a specific rally slated for next month has certainly sparked fan interest in a hungry Canadian hockey market for the NHL’s comeback.

Before Nordiques fans were excited about the prospect of the franchise returning to Quebec, however, the NHL commissioner had a bit of fun with reporters at this week’s board of governors meeting in Palm Beach, California. Florida.

“I don’t know the details of what they want to talk about,” Bettman said of his January meeting with officials from the Quebec government. “At 10,000 feet, we can all figure that out.”

The potential rebirth of the Nordics – a franchise that upped the ante in 1995 and bolted the province to becoming the Colorado Avalanche – will in all likelihood be the one agenda item officials will really want to discuss.

But Bettman did his best in the sunny south to put out the idea that Canada would soon get an eighth franchise.

“There are no preconceptions or anything,” he said. “I am more than happy when government leaders want to come and meet.”

The timing was intriguing, with more embarrassing headlines involving the Arizona Coyotes surfacing ahead of the board’s first face-to-face meeting since 2019 – on this occasion for unpaid debts to the town of Glendale and the company that manages Gila River Arena which resulted in a threat to lock the team out of their original building.

Bettman, however, assured media gathered for the meeting that the Coyotes are “doing fine, and they’re doing well,” before explaining why the game continues to be heavily stacked against Quebec City – despite its insane fan base. of hockey and the 18 259-. Center Videotron headquarters, which opened in 2015.

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“The problem is going to be whether we have a team that wants to move right now? We don’t,” he said. “Or are we going to want to grow? While I’m sitting here today, we don’t intend to grow.

“But I’m happy to have the meeting and to hear what the Quebec government has to say. You should all know me well enough that I keep an open mind on everything … we’ll see what happens. “

Quebec City saw its bid for a “deferred” expansion franchise when the NHL gave the go-ahead to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2016. The Seattle Kraken received a team in 2019 and began playing this season , bringing the league to 32 teams. , with 16 clubs in each conference.

Bettman applauded the passion of fans across Quebec, but he also gave a history lesson.

“When the Nordiques moved, it was a function of two things,” he said. “At the time, there was no prospect of a new building. And… despite everyone’s best efforts, no one wanted to keep a team in Quebec.

“The world may have changed since then, and I’m happy to listen and understand what it all means.”

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The big news at the Governing Council meeting revolved around the thorny issue of Olympic participation, with the Games fast approaching and COVID-19 still a huge threat. The Coyotes have also been a topic of discussion, as have the NHL’s efforts towards safety, inclusiveness and respect following a series of disturbing incidents over the past two seasons.

Here are some of the other topics covered in Florida:

Equity now welcome

Bettman announced an amendment to the NHL’s ownership rules that will allow private equity firms to buy minority stakes in clubs with “hard limits.”

The Minnesota Wild and the Tampa Bay Lightning have recently been involved in transactions of this nature.

Bettman said the new rules were in line with those of Major League Baseball, NBA and Major League Soccer. The commissioner also confirmed that private equity firms would be allowed to hold stakes in more than one team.

“We have very, very strict rules, which very, very, very much limit what they can do,” he said. “Their participation makes them extraordinarily passive, but it’s an investment.

“They show great confidence in our game and our game business and our prospects for growth.”

Hockey Hall of Fame lends a helping hand

Bettman said the board of directors approved a total contribution from clubs in the league of approximately US $ 7 million to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

The money will go to the facility’s development and preservation fund.

Back to the World Cup?

Bettman has said the league and the NHL Players Association eventually want to resurrect the World Cup of Hockey.

The international tournament hosted by the NHL was last held in 2016.

“With all the issues we’re focusing on, including whether Olympic participation is ultimately to take place, that hasn’t been in the foreground,” Bettman said. “But it’s something that we and the [NHLPA] believing is important.

“When we can get some fresh air, I think that’s something we’ll pursue together.”

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