NHL affirms it will get hefty fees from potential expansion teams

NHL Commissioner said the fee for prospective expansion teams will "start with a 5." That's a 5 as in $500 million.

NHL Commissioner said the fee for prospective expansion teams will “start with a 5.” That’s a 5 as in $500 million.

(Darryl Dyck / AP)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday reaffirmed that the fee for a potential expansion franchise will be half a billion dollars but said the process of evaluating applications from Quebec City and Las Vegas has no deadline for a resolution.

Bettman, speaking at a news conference in New York after a meeting of the league’s Board of Governors, also said it’s not guaranteed that the league will expand beyond its current 30-team membership.

If it does, however, current owners are in for a big windfall. “If we expand, it will start with a 5,” he said of the expected $500-million fee to be paid by a new franchise. The last two expansion teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild, each paid fees of $80 million before taking to the ice for the 2000-01 season. Since then league revenues have jumped—they’re expected to exceed $4 billion—and those numbers could again be boosted by international events such as next year’s World Cup of Hockey and the possible addition of advertisements on players’ jerseys.


The promise of long-term labor peace is one factor that enhances the NHL’s value to potential owners. The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NHL Players’ Assn. runs through Sept. 15, 2022, though each side has an option to terminate the agreement two years sooner.

Expansion fees would be shared among owners, who would not have to share that money with players. That makes the admission of new franchises an attractive prospect to many existing teams. Although the 2017-18 season has been presumed to be the target date, Bettman said that is not necessarily the case.

A group in Las Vegas, led by businessman Bill Foley, and another in Quebec City, headed by media giant Quebecor, have reached Phase 3 of the league’s expansion process. However, Bettman said the league’s Executive Committee will continue to gather information and added that there’s no target date for the completion of this phase, or any phases that might follow. Quebec has a new arena, the Videotron Center. An arena in Las Vegas, backed by AEG and MGM Resorts International, is scheduled to open in 2016.

“The executive committee has to get comfortable” with all aspects of a possible expansion before the governors would vote, Bettman said. A three-quarters vote by the governors would be required to add a team.

Bettman also said the governors got updates on the World Cup, the weakness of the Canadian dollar—a prime concern for a league that has seven franchises in Canada—and on the new three-on-three overtime format. He said that of the 44 exhibition games that had gone to three-on-three play, 33 had goals been scored and that the goals came an average of 2 minutes and 49 seconds into the overtime. “Pretty much what we expected,” he said.

The three-on-three format was implemented in order to reduce the number of games that go to shootouts.


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