Copps Coliseum, which opened in 1985, would only be a short-term option until a new arena is built. Find the right ownership and that could probably happen within a reasonable amount of time.
BlackBerry co-founder and former CEO Jim Balsillie tired to relocate a team to Hamilton on three separate occasions, but his mistakes along the way cost him and the city that chance. Balsillie won’t be getting an NHL team any time soon, so the league would have to find stable ownership from someone else in Southern Ontario — which shouldn’t be a concern.
Daly reiterated this week that he believes there’s a “strong interest in hockey” in the Pacific Northwest, and Portland could be a beneficiary of that if Seattle does not get chosen for expansion. Junior hockey has had a presence in the Oregon city since 1976 with the WHL’s Winterhawks, so there’s some evidence that the NHL could be successful there.
Moda Center, formerly known as the Rose Garden, opened in 1995 and is home to the NBA’s Trail Blazers as well as the Winterhawks. It seats 18,280, which would be right in the middle of the pack as an NHL arena.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who already has the Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks and a piece of the Seattle Sounds, could be a logical choice for ownership. His deep pockets would make him attractive to the league.
Las Vegas remains the most intriguing option for every North American professional sports league because it’s an untapped market but has questions as far as season-ticket-holders and gambling. Assuming the NHL would be taken off sports books with a team there, the biggest question would be if the area could support a team for the long term.
There isn’t much of a hockey tradition in the Nevada desert, but Las Vegas does have the ECHL’s Wranglers and previously an International Hockey League franchise.
The Wranglers play at Orleans Arena, which seats under 8,000 for hockey and wouldn’t be a possibility. Thomas & Mack Center, which houses UNLV college basketball, could be a very short-term fix.
Plans for a new, 20,000-seat arena in Paradise, Nevada, have been discussed for several years, but nothing has been made official. Given the money in the market, getting a facility up and working in a short period of time is the least of concerns for Las Vegas.
Ownership would be vital, and the Maloof family, which sold the NBA’s Sacramento Kings earlier this year, could be in the discussion. Joe and Gavin Maloof have looked into bringing an NHL team to Las Vegas and even met with Bettman to discuss it, according to an April report in the Sacramento Bee.
Levin has spoken to Bettman about the NHL in Seattle, too. The answer was in line with the commissioner’s comments in Pebble Beach, Calif.
“The feedback has been that they were not prepared,” Levin said. “The commissioner told me that he would get back to me at such a time that there would be some interest in discussing it.”
Business around the NHL is good, and any expansion fees would not have to be split with players because it doesn’t count as hockey-related revenue, so it makes sense that it’s coming at some point.
But Levin said he’s very willing to be patient. That might be sound advice for fans in these markets, too.
“If (Bettman) has people interested, he’ll talk to them,” Levin said. “He’s a very smart fellow. He knows what he’s doing. He has his plan and he’ll follow it. Nobody’s going to rush him: me, you or anybody else.”