LOS ANGELES â€” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says Carolina Hurricanes fans shouldn’t worry about losing their team to Quebec City.
Bettman swiftly knocked down speculation about a possible relocation of the Hurricanes on Saturday during All-Star weekend, saying the league is committed to keeping the team in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“The club is not moving,” Bettman said.
Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. has been publicly seeking a local buyer to purchase part of the team for at least three years, but has yet to make a deal. Karmanos recently acknowledged he has given consideration to selling the entire franchise, which could theoretically open it up to relocation.
Quebec City has an NHL-ready rink â€” the $370 million Videotron Centre â€” in a small but vibrant hockey market. Quebecor, a communications conglomerate, made a recent bid for an NHL expansion team, but the league decided only to add the Vegas Golden Knights last summer.
Bettman says any sale wouldn’t mean the Hurricanes are leaving Raleigh for Quebec or anywhere else.
“Peter may sell, he may not sell,” Bettman said. “He may sell all of it. He may sell some of it. He may sell none of it. There’s no formal sale process going on. There’s no imperative for the franchise to be sold on any immediate basis, and the franchise is not moving. I hope that was definitive enough.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly echoed Bettman’s comments later, saying the league is committed to Raleigh in the same manner it has stuck with Phoenix during years of struggles for the Coyotes. And though Bettman and Daly didn’t mention it, relocation also wouldn’t command the mid-nine-figures fees paid by the new owners of expansion teams.
“It’s not all about money,” Daly said. “It’s about commitment to markets.”
Despite a decent amount of young talent, the Hurricanes (21-20-7) are tied for last place in the Metropolitan Division at the All-Star break, mired in a seven-year playoff drought. The former Hartford Whalers have made the playoffs just once since winning their only Stanley Cup title in 2006, and they ranked last in the NHL in attendance last season.
During his usual news conference before the All-Star Skills Competition, Bettman also knocked down the notion of selling advertisement space on NHL jerseys. The NBA will have ads next season on at least three jerseys, including those of the Boston Celtics.
“It’s not an active discussion among NHL clubs,” Bettman said. “We take great pride in our sweaters. We think they’re the best in all of sports, and that’s not something we’re running off to do. I always said we wouldn’t be first … It would take an unusual circumstance, which I would define as a lot of money that I’m having trouble comprehending right now, for us to even be thinking about it. We think what we have is special. We talk about history and tradition and how special hockey jerseys are. We’re not looking to put advertising on our sweaters.”
Bettman gave a positive review to the Golden Knights’ progress under owner Bill Foley. Vegas general manager George McPhee likely will be allowed to begin making player transactions around March 1, Daly said.
Bettman also expects an All-Star Game to be awarded to Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena “at some point in the earlier days of the franchise” to reward the new market.
“Listen, they got 6,000 people to come out to hear the announcement of the (team) name,” Bettman said. “That’s pretty good fan support. And like many other places, it’s an interesting and fun destination to go to for the weekend.”
Follow AP Hockey Writer Greg Beacham on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gregbeacham
Greg Beacham, The Associated Press