NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday he has no plans to add new teams to the league and is focused on keeping the current teams where they are. It’s the latest blow in the efforts to bring hockey to a new sports arena in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood.
Bettman made the comments while announcing that the New York Islanders would move to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn after its current lease at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is completed. The $1 billion Barclays Center is also the new home for the NBA’s Nets, which just moved from New Jersey.
Islanders owner Charles Wang said he had received “more than one” offer to move the Islanders out of state. Bettman said the offers were not taken seriously because the Islanders’ lease was not up.
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The Seattle City and King County councils voted last week to allow investor Chris Hansen to build a new NBA / NHL arena just south of Safeco Field, pending the outcome of an Environmental Impact Study. One major condition is that Hansen must first secure an NBA team to move into the arena before it can be built.
The arena agreement faces a lawsuit by two locals of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which opposes the location near the busy Port of Seattle. The unions argue that the two councils erred in endorsing the SODO location before environmental reviews were conducted.
Tough 24 hours
The Islanders announcement Wednesday was one of three blows to Seattle arena supporters in a 24-hour period. The NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies was one team rumored as a target to come to Seattle, but is close to finalizing a deal to stay in Tennessee.
The Milwaukee Bucks, which has been on a year-to-year lease at the Bradley Center, reportedly has agreed to a six-year extension to stay in Wisconsin.
The Sacramento Kings are still on the radar as a likely NBA target for Hansen. Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof backed out of an arena deal with the city in April, saying it didn't make financial sense for the franchise. No other plan has been in the works between Sacramento and the Maloofs, which will again open the possibility of relocation if nothing develops by early next year.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has said the league has no plans to expand, so moving a current team to Seattle is the only option for Hansen.
The NHL is currently in a lockout and some regular season games have already been canceled. Bettman said a full 82-game season does not appear to be a reality at this point. The league canceled its entire 2004-2005 season due to a lockout.