Bettman says NHL expansion process is ongoing

Saturday, 01.30.2016 / 6:50 PM
Dan Rosen  - Senior Writer

NASHVILLE -- The expansion process, featuring applicants from the Quebec and Las Vegas markets, is ongoing and the Board of Governors executive committee is not ready to make a recommendation to put expansion to a vote, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday.

Commissioner Bettman updated the expansion process and spoke about a number of other topics at his annual state of the League press conference prior to the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

"The executive committee, which is the group of owners charged with making the study and going through the process and ultimately making a recommendation to the Board of Governors, met two weeks ago," Commissioner Bettman said. "The process is continuing, and we're not ready to make a recommendation. That is something that will be done over the next few months, and that recommendation can be no expansion, one team or two teams. So the process is ongoing, but I don't have a firm date for you."

The Board of Governors met Saturday morning; however, expansion was only a small item on the agenda for the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.

The board isn't scheduled to meet again until June, but Commissioner Bettman said he could call a special meeting if the executive committee resolves that it is prepared to go forward with a vote on expansion.

Expansion requires approval from three-quarters of the League's 30 owners.

"I've always said the earliest we would expand is '17-18 and whatever we do the clubs need at least a full year," Commissioner Bettman said. "As long as there is at least a year lead time, we could make '17-18, but if we don't make '17-18 we don't make '17-18."

There are a number of factors the Board of Governors is considering regarding expansion, including plans for an expansion draft, how many players the current 30 teams could protect and leave available for an expansion draft, where the team or teams would be slotted in the NHL Draft, and conference alignment with the potential for Quebec, which could be a 17th Eastern Conference market.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said a concern for the League is bringing in expansion teams that struggle to be competitive for a number of years, because of the impact it eventually has on business.

"If we do expand, we want a competitive expansion club," Daly said.

In addition, Commissioner Bettman indicated it's not clear if the slumping Canadian dollar, which was about 72 cents on the U.S. dollar as of Friday, would impact on the bid from Quebec.

"They've been doing a lot of work on this we know," Los Angeles Kings president Luc Robitaille said. "They are going to make sure that by the time they make the decision, it's going to be the right decision.

"You have to do it right. You have to protect everyone and just do it right because this is going to impact a lot of people's lives."

Canadian dollar and the impact on the salary cap projection

The board did not discuss the salary cap projection for the 2016-17 season during its meeting Saturday. Commissioner Bettman said when the Board of Governors met in Pebble Beach, Calif. on Dec. 7 that the cap could go up approximately $3 million from its current $71.4 million.

"Right now, with the volatility in the Canadian dollar, all it would lead to is speculation," he said.

He indicated it's premature to consider the impact the Canadian dollar could have on the cap figure, but he doesn't think it will be major.

"The clubs are well aware of it conceptually and nobody is overly concerned because I believe we're going to be in the same universe," he said. "When you're dealing with a cap over 70 million [dollars], whether or not you're a million dollars more or less, or a couple million dollars more or less, I don't think is all material."

Olympic decision still on hold

Commissioner Bettman said the NHL is waiting for information from the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee before deciding if it will participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

"The last discussion that we had was with the IIHF, I want to say two months ago, and I think they told us we collectively had a year to decide," Commissioner Bettman said. "There are a lot of things that are up in the air at least at this point from the IOC and IIHF standpoint, including as a threshold matter the responsibility the IIHF and the IOC bear in terms of the expenses of showing, whether or not it's transportation or insurance. So there are still lots of things from a variety of constituents that have to be dealt with before we get to a serious consideration of that issue."

NHL players have participated in the past five Olympics going back to 1998 in Nagano.

NHL to test blue line cameras to assist in offside calls

Commissioner Bettman said the League will test cameras on the blue line during the All-Star Game with the intent of improving the speed and quality of the view the officials see on replays for goals scored on potential offside plays contested with a coach's challenge.

"I think there will be more cameras in our future," he said. "We're really good with the camera work that is available in real time to the situation room. I think we're a little too reliant on the broadcasters right now on offside and actually we're going to test some camera work this weekend to see if we can get a more instantaneous, better view from the blue line."

Debrief after All-Star likely to include fan voting system

Commissioner Bettman said the League will examine the All-Star fan voting system it has in place during its internal debrief following this weekend.

The debrief on the fan voting is in response to John Scott, currently in the American Hockey League after being traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 15, being voted by fans to be the captain of the Pacific Division All-Star team.

"Nobody has made any decisions," he said.

NHL to help Denna Laing

Commissioner Bettman said the NHL, on behalf of the 30 member teams, is donating $200,000 to assist injured women's hockey player Denna Laing in her rehabilitation and recovery from the injuries she suffered during the inaugural Outdoor Women's Classic on Dec. 31 at Gillette Stadium.

In addition, he said Honda and Ticketmaster, two of the NHL's corporate partners, are teaming up to donate a 2016 Honda Odyssey to the Laing family; the vehicle will be retrofitted to meet Laing's transportation needs.

Laing's mother and two sisters will be guests of the NHL at the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Laing, who plays for the Boston Pride in the National Women's Hockey League, suffered a spinal injury during the game on Dec. 31.

Earlier this month, the Boston Bruins announced a joint pledge of at least $200,000 to the Denna Laing Fund from the team, the Jacobs family, the Boston Bruins Foundation and TD Garden.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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