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The Globe and Mail

Potential Seattle owner counting on NHL expansion

In this file photo the NHL logo is seen on a goal.

Mark Humphrey/AP

One potential new owner for an NHL team in Seattle believes the league could be offering up expansion franchises within the next three years.

Don Levin, who owns the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves, has been waiting in the wings for an NHL team for a few years and told ESPN this week he thinks expansion is the best shot to get one.

"I can tell you there are not teams for sale that are available to move," Levin said, before remarking on expansion, "I would think three years."

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The report follows on the heels of billionaire investor Chris Hansen and Seattle putting the final touches on a nearly $500-million (U.S.) arena deal that is aimed at bringing an NBA franchise back to the city.

Hansen isn't interested in owning an NHL team, however, which is where someone like Levin would come in, even if it's a tricky spot to be a tenant owner these days in professional sports.

The league, meanwhile, has stronger interest in going to Seattle than any other market but has been waiting on the building to come together before considering it a realistic possibility.

Expansion to 32 teams has been talked about off and on in NHL circles for the past few years, with Quebec City and a second Toronto team getting much of the attention.

Despite a few setbacks in some troubled markets, however, the league's brass want to continue to try and expand the league's footprint in the United States. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area is the 15th largest in the country and is also likely close enough to Vancouver that the team could establish a rivalry with the Canucks.

The downside is that with an NBA team in place, the market could be saturated with franchises in all of the so-called big four sports.

The hope for the NHL in the next few years will be that a new collective bargaining agreement will help stabilize the 30 teams it has already, which will help push up franchise values and open the door to add two more clubs.

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