Hockey / Sports

NHL denies expansion reports

Hockey fans must be getting bored during the brief lull between the end of development camps and the start of training camps next month.

How else to explain their frenzy over two recent reports that the NHL will soon expand by as many as four teams over the next few seasons?

First came a report from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province on Tuesday citing unnamed sources as claiming that expansion to Las Vegas was "a done deal," with only the trivial matter of who will own the team to be decided.

Then, Howard Bloom of Sportsbusinessnews.com jumped in with a tweet saying that the NHL will add franchises in Quebec City, Toronto, Seattle and Las Vegas by 2017, bringing in $1.4 billion in expansion fees (which, incidentally, don't have to be shared with players).

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said during the Stanley Cup Final in June that the league wasn't in the midst of an expansion process. However, it's easy to see how the prospect of sharing lucrative expansion fees could sway owners' minds.

And while there are elements that lend credibility to the idea of imminent expansion -- ground was broken in May for an arena in Las Vegas, and Seattle would be a natural geographic fit for a league whose East-West division is uneven -- there's little real substance to either report. Neither named a source for its information, and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly shot both down on Wednesday, saying they were "lacking in facts and foundation."

In an email to The Times he added, "Nothing has changed since the last time we publicly commented on the prospects for expansion at the Stanley Cup Final and at NHL Awards. There is nothing new to report."

Training camps -- scheduled to open on Sept. 18 and 19 -- can't start soon enough.

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