Contrary to some belief, the NHL is not in a position to expand to southern Ontario, Quebec or anywhere else, says the league’s deputy commissioner.
Bill Daly on Thursday told Hockey Night in Canada Radio listeners “we’re not there right now” on expansion.
Those words might come as a devastating blow to those living in and around Markham, Ont., after city council in the city of about 300,000 just north of Toronto voted Tuesday night in support of a funding plan to build an NHL-style arena with the help of public funding.
“I haven’t talked to Paul about expansion recently,” Daly told HNIC Radio host Gord Stellick and co-host Scott Oake. “As a sports league, you would like to be in a position where there are markets that want to host NHL franchises, potential ownership groups that want to own NHL franchises.
“The Markham arena project is not new news to us. We’ve been in contact with Markham city officials going back a number of years now.
“I think we’ve been very upfront with them all along,” continued Daly, “with respect to the fact that we didn’t have a plan for expansion and if they chose to build a rink or a state-of-the-art arena they should do it under the assumption [they may] never have an NHL franchise and they understand that.”
The proposed 20,000-seat arena has an estimated $325 million price tag. Private sources would cover half the cost, while the other 50 per cent would come from a levy on newly built homes, townhouses and condominiums.
Kelly, who was executive director of the NHL Players’ Association from October 2007 until August 2009, told HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman following Wednesday’s meeting that NHL expansion would occur in the next two or three years, “most likely” to Quebec City and Toronto.
When Oake told Daly that Canadian teams generate $100 million US or more, the deputy commissioner didn’t dispute the fact that expansion to the aforementioned regions could make sense.
“You do have to look at the marketplace over a much longer period of time,” he said. “You’re right, our Canadian teams in particular are thriving right now and have been probably for the last five to ten years.
“We [also] went through a decade [with concerns about] the Canadian dollar but for other reasons as well the Canadian franchises weren’t thriving. I think you have to factor in a long-term view whenever you make these types of decisions.
“Once you’ve made a decision to be in a market you should give that market a fighting chance to be successful before you pull the plug on it. That’s our philosophy and I think it’s [the philosophy] of most professional sports leagues.”
One such market is Phoenix, where reports surfaced Thursday about prospective Coyotes owner Greg Jamison seeking an extension on a lucrative arena-management deal.
According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, Glendale (Ariz.) mayor Jerry Weiers said he received a call late Wednesday from an attorney representing Jamison, who previously was offered a 20-year deal from the city that pays him an average of $15 million US a year to manage Jobing.com Arena.
The deal, however, mandates that Jamison purchase the NHL club from the league by 11:59 p.m. MT Thursday. Should Jamison miss the deadline, the deal would fall through.
Jamison, the former San Jose Sharks CEO, reached a 20-year lease deal with Glendale last year for $324 million that was reworked in November.
Daly told HNIC Radio that Thursday isn’t a deadline from the NHL’s perspective.
“Our objective remains the same [to] find a transition ownership in Glendale,” he said.
Will Coyotes franchise be moved if someone other than the league doesn’t own it by end of this season?
“It’s a fair question,” said Daly. “Up to this point the franchise has remained [in Glendale]. We’re closer to executing an alternative [plan] right now than we were five months ago but I’m not going to make any predictions with respect to what happens after this year.”
Daly also discussed his 16-year working relationship with Gary Bettman, who will celebrate 20 years as NHL commissioner on Friday.
Prior to joining Bettman at the league office in January 1997, Daly had some exposure to him as an outside counsel for the league on a couple of projects.
“I can tell you I’ve learned a lot from the man,” said Daly of Bettman. “I respect him immensely. I consider him a great friend and I think he’s been a great champion for this game. He’s certainly moved it forward.”
Loyalty is the one thing Daly has learned from Bettman.
“The thing I respect most about Gary, besides his intelligence, is his loyalty. It has guided me the way I conduct my professional relationships in my professional career.”