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Bettman talks Seattle, draft changes, outdoor games

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TSN.ca Staff
5/23/2014 8:03:18 PM
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Despite a recent trip to Seattle, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says expansion is not currently on the horizon for the league.

In a one-hour interview with TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun on Friday, Bettman discussed a variety of topics, including expansion, outdoor games and changes to the NHL draft.

When asked about his recently reported trip to Seattle with deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Bettman said the visit simply coincided with being on the west coast for a playoff game in Anaheim.

"We had a few hours to kill, we were in the neighborhood, so I figured I'd go to Seattle to find out what the building story was," Bettman told LeBrun. "We weren't there campaigning, we weren't asking for anything, and that's been misreported. Based on the level of interest we're getting from lots of people in Seattle and a fair amount of uncertainty and confusion about the building, we decided 'Let's go find out for ourselves what the story is with the building.' And there's no prospect of a building right now."

Investor Chris Hansen currently holds the rights with the city of Seattle to build a new arena, however Hansen will not move ahead with the building process until he has secured an NBA franchise. Hansen is not pursuing an NHL team for the arena, but would like to have an NHL team as a tenant of the arena under another owner.

"The sense I get is he doesn't want to build a building just to have a tenant," Bettman said. "And since he seems to have things tied up with the city for the next three years, give or take, there's no certainty about a building."

Bettman's takeaway from the Seattle tour; that "the possibility of a new arena is at best uncertain."

Bettman said he is also aware of the arena being built in Quebec City, as well as the plans for an MGM Arena in Las Vegas, however expansion for his league currently remains off the table.

"Things are popping up, but we're not in an expansion process. Could we get to one at some point? Maybe. But right now we're not focused on going through an expansion process."

While the league may not be expanding franchises, expanding fan bases through outdoor games will continue.

The commissioner acknowledged that though the number of outdoor games will drop from the record six played last season, the league will play more than one outdoor game in 2014-15.

Bettman explained that the elevated number of games this past season stemmed from various circumstances.

"This year we used those games in a variety of ways. Part of it was promoting us going into the Olympics, part of it was promoting it coming out. And doing it in New York [around the Super Bowl] with two games...we had to do lots of stuff. Our people did an extraordinary job, but we really taxed things to the limit. But also, interestingly enough, the Olympic break let us set up for more games. So, it'll be more than one and less than six next season."

As the league continues its tradition of adding excitement with outdoor games, the discussion of adding more excitement to the draft has also come up.

"The GMs have asked us whether or not more teams should be eligible for the lottery result moving up more teams and whether or not the odds should be adjusted a little bit. That's something we're looking at," Bettman said.

Bettman told LeBrun it would be 'premature' to say if the adjustments would be made in time for the 2015 Draft, but said changes are being contemplated.

"We haven't finished a proposal that's been circulated... I think if we're going to make an adjustment, it'll be that more picks are selected by the lottery and we might smooth out the odds a little. But again, that's not something we're at yet."

The current NHL draft process gives every non-playoff team a chance at the first overall selection, with percentages declining from 25 percent.

The 2014 NHL Draft will take place on June 27-28 in Philadelphia.

Rangers-Devils at Yankee Stadium (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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