Sat, Dec 01, 2018 - Page 16 News List

NHL expecting more teams


Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, left, is congratulated by teammate Nate Schmidt after their win over the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Thursday.

Photo: AP

The NHL will soon have 32 teams if Seattle are approved as expected next week, bringing an even balance between conferences and a cross-border rival for the Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific Northwest.

Surely the league is done growing for a while?

Maybe not.

Two-and-a-half years after voting to add a team in Las Vegas in what has been a rousing success, the NHL has plenty of options when it comes to what is next. No North American professional sports league has stretched past 32, but no one is ruling it out for the NHL to get there.

“The leagues adapt, they look around and they make judgements: Are there markets we would like to go into? Can they support the teams at the revenue levels that we need? If we expand too much, too fast, do we dilute the talent such that the product suffers? And those are all judgement calls in the end,” NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr said. “Some leagues and owners are more cautious than others, but sooner or later I would like to believe that in the kind of economy we have, all potential avenues will be explored.”

Considering the success of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, Seattle has seemed a no-brainer from the beginning and no one expects anything but approval from the board of governors as early as Monday. Seattle would begin play in either 2020 or 2021.

“Hockey needs to be and wants to be in those really fast-paced cities that are growing and setting the mark,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said. “Because if we do well here, it’ll raise all the boats for all the teams.”

Vegas already raised the bar for Seattle, which is to pay an expansion fee of US$650 million — a 30 percent increase over the US$500 million that cleared the way for the Golden Knights to begin play last season and far beyond the US$45 million the San Jose Sharks paid to enter the league in 1991 to begin a new era of expansion.

As soon as the NHL went to 31, getting to 32 was inevitable. As balanced as it might seem, it is not the end.

“Not sure there is any magic about 32,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “Expansion is appropriate when a convincing case can be made that it will be beneficial and add value to the league as a whole.”

On the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury turned 34 this week and was happy to be asked after Thursday night’s win whether he is getting quicker with age.

“Thank you, I’ll take that,” the Las Vegas goaltender said. “They keep calling me ‘old man.’ I don’t know, I just try to get in front of the puck as quick as I can.”

Fleury made 33 saves and Max Pacioretty scored twice to lead the Golden Knights past the struggling Vancouver Canucks 4-3 for their fifth straight victory.

William Karlsson’s short-handed goal with 6 minutes, 25 seconds remaining snapped a three-all tie. William Carrier also scored for Vegas.

In other games on Thursday, it was:

‧ Blue Jackets 4, Wild 2

‧ Senators 3, Rangers 0

‧ Lightning 5, Sabres 4

‧ Bruins 2, Islanders 1

‧ Jets 6, Blackhawks 5

‧ Coyotes 3, Predators 0

‧ Oilers 3, Kings 2

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