TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger joined host Gino Reda to discuss what Russia’s Olympic ban means for hockey in PyeongChang, whether the NHL is ready to get serious about Seattle and the latest with the potential sale of the Carolina Hurricanes.
How will Russia’s Olympic ban affect the hockey tournament at the Games?
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie spoke with IIHF president Rene Fasel about how Tuesday’s news will affect hockey at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.
Bob McKenzie: The reality is right now Rene Fasel is no different than the rest of us. He’s in wait and see mode. How are the Russians going to react? And the Russians are defined from everybody from Vladimir Putin to their Duma, to the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, to the KHL and to their Olympic Association. So here’s the quote from Rene Fasel:
“We will see where things are… in the next 48 hours. We have to see how Russia will react. We need to talk to our (IIHF) people, we need to talk to the Russians. It’s too early to make statements.”
What Rene Fasel is simply trying to do is let this thing settle for 24 to 48 hours and see what, if anything, the Russians are going to come out with and then react to that.
What are Canadian hockey officials saying?
Darren Dreger: Canada isn’t sure how to react just yet; they have to allow the IIHF to do its work specific to the Kontinental Hockey League. Now, the KHL had planned on loaning players to their countries to participate in South Korea. Well, if the KHL decides all of a sudden that they don’t care what the IIHF says, they don’t care what the IOC says, they’re not loaning those players, Canada is in a pickle because Sean Burke, the general manager for Team Canada, was hoping for a minimum of 10 players to make up his Olympic roster. So then that factors into the ongoing discussions that Hockey Canada has had with the CHL about junior players being eligible for the Olympics. They had tabled those discussions until after the World Juniors, but if the KHL comes out and says no go to loaning players, then perhaps the CHL and Hockey Canada have to talk again before the World Juniors.
Is the NHL ready to discuss Seattle?
Seattle City Council voted Monday to invest $600 million to renovate Key Arena and say by the end of 2020 it will be ready to host an NHL team. Could this be discussed at the upcoming NHL Board of Governors meeting scheduled for later this week in Florida?
Pierre LeBrun: Well, it’s not actually officially on the agenda that went out Monday and that’s because it went out before the City Council vote in Seattle. But the Board of Governors will absolutely address the Seattle situation. First of all, do not underestimate how significant that vote was in Seattle. For years, the NHL has been intrigued by this market way before they ever thought of Vegas. But the issue was, of course, the rink. That is no longer an issue. At some point in the Board of Governors meeting, I believe NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in one form or another will address Seattle. How that statement takes shape, we will see. But the bottom line is they’re not coming out and awarding a franchise, but they’re going to acknowledge the interest in Seattle.
Bob McKenzie: That’s right, we do not believe that a franchise will be awarded or that even a conditional franchise would be awarded to Seattle, but there is an Executive Committee meeting for the Board of Governors meeting and what happens at those two meetings could go a long way towards how the NHL does react this weekend. Here are the possibilities for the NHL: Number one, they could acknowledge that there’s substantial ownership interest from Seattle, and maybe that even comes in the form of a financial guarantee from the owners in Seattle. Number two, ready to announce that the league is ready to expand to 32 teams. Number three, invite expansion bids. Make this a formal process. Number four, allow the ownership group in Seattle to do test marketing whether that’s a season ticket drive or whatever else. The National Hockey League could technically do any one of those four things, it could do all of those four things in this next week, or it could do none of them. What happens at the meeting on Thursday or Friday will dictate the public response.
Who is behind the Seattle group?
Los Angeles-based Oak View Group is one of the major players behind the Key Arena renovations, which may open the door for NHL expansion talks. Who are some of the members leading the charge?
Darren Dreger: The Seattle group is backed by some real heavy hitters in terms of the landscape of the finances. If you look at Jerry Bruckheimer, he’s been knocking doors of NHL ownership for the past decade, maybe longer than that. You’ve got David Bonderman who’s got deep, deep pockets. This guy is a multi-billionaire. And then you’ve got Tim Leiweke, who’s going to provide considerable influence into the renovation plan of Key Arena. So all of those components I think would be attractive not only to the National Hockey League, but clearly to NHL owners.
What’s the latest with the Carolina Hurricanes?
Rumours have swirled for a while about a potential sale of the Carolina Hurricanes. But how far along is the process?
Pierre LeBrun: The Executive Committee might deal with them on Thursday. It involves a potential sale of Peter Karmanos Jr. selling a big chunk of the Carolina Hurricanes to Dallas businessman Tom Dundon. The deal is not done yet but it’s certainly getting close and part of the deal in terms of what the NHL has communicated to Tom Dundon is that if you buy the team, you’re not going to relocate it and it stays in Raleigh. I think everyone is on board with that.