Bettman talks to Messier, Subban on ESPN

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed several subjects in studio on ESPN on Tuesday, most notably arenas, expansion and in-season tournaments.

Gary Bettman answers questions from Twitter

Bettman also teased an announcement that was made on “Good Morning America” on ABC on Wednesday. The Jonas Brothers will perform in concert before the Philadelphia Flyers play the New Jersey Devils in the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Feb. 17.

The newsiest nugget came during an “#AsktheCommish” segment during the second intermission of the Detroit Red Wings-St. Louis Blues broadcast, when a fan asked via X, formerly known as Twitter, about teams moving cities.

The fan mentioned the Arizona Coyotes, who are playing temporarily at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Arizona, and looking for a new home in the Phoenix area. Bettman brought up the Washington Capitals, who play at Capital One Arena in Washington but might have another option in Alexandria, Virginia.

“Nobody’s moving,” Bettman said. “We like where our franchises are. I know there’s a rumor about Washington being asked to come to Virginia, which is four miles away from their existing arena. That’s all. And it may be a great opportunity to have an incredible, forward-looking fan experience that’s new age and takes care of new technology and new experiences and something that could be very special.”

A fan asked about the possibility of further expansion this decade. The Vegas Golden Knights began play in 2017-18, the Seattle Kraken in 2021-22.

“We’re getting a lot of solicitations of interest -- places like Atlanta, Quebec City, Houston, Salt Lake City,” Bettman said. “It’s not something we’re focused on. We think the 32 teams we have now are in great places. We like where we are. I can’t ever say ‘never’ to anything. It’s ultimately [an NHL Board of Governors] decision. But we’re not in the middle of, or interested in starting, at least right now, an expansion process.”

Garry Bettman joins ESPN's SportsCenter

Bettman was asked on “SportsCenter” if the NHL would ever consider an in-season tournament like the one the NBA debuted this season.

“I’m not going to comment on the pros and cons of what another league does,” Bettman said. “We kind of like our regular season. Teams feel like they’re in the playoffs even now. But I think as we look forward, what we do in-season that may be a little bit different is best-on-best international competition.

“Ultimately, we want to get to the point where every other year we’re doing the Olympics [or] the World Cup, because we have a great tradition of international competition, and our players love to represent their countries, and I think, to us, changing it up a little bit in the regular season should take that form, not for us to tinker with our regular season.”

During the first intermission of the Red Wings-Blues broadcast, Bettman said the NHL probably would hold a “four-country invitational” next season with the goal of going to the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics, holding a World Cup two years after that and continuing the cycle from there.

“We’ll do that in-season, and that will be our in-season tournament,” Bettman said.

At the NHL Board of Governors meeting in Seattle on Dec. 5, he indicated, but did not confirm, the four countries for the tournament next season would be Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States.

ESPN analyst and former NHL defenseman P.K. Subban asked about the NHL expanding internationally.

“Based on our schedule, it’s not practical,” Bettman said. “If you’re playing once a week (like in the NFL), you can move teams back and forth to Europe. But the bigger issue for us is, of the four major North American sports, we are the most internationally based, and there is an existing sports hockey infrastructure, particularly in Northern Europe in the places where we’d be strongest, and I’m not sure that the leagues -- the Swedish league, the Finnish league -- would be too happy if we came over and competed with them.”

The NHL plays overseas in the NHL Global Series to help grow the game.

“We want to continue to encourage the development of world-class players in places like Sweden and Finland and [Czechia], and so I don’t see [international expansion] certainly for the foreseeable future,” Bettman said. “We want to work together to grow hockey worldwide. We don’t want to compete with the existing leagues, which are very strong in their own countries.”

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