NHL fans were all abuzz when a report published in the Vancouver Province cited that the league's expansion to Las Vegas was a "done deal." Hash tags were created, team names bandied about, promotional nights dreamt up. When Howard Bloom of SportsBusinessNews.com issued another report that cited expansion to Quebec City, Toronto, Seattle and Vegas by 2017, it was a full on explosion of conversations among hockey pundits, media and fans.
The only people not talking about it apparently are the people who make these kinds of decisions. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly seemed to spend much of his morning denying the reports that the league has definitive plans for expansion. First, he told TVASports.ca that there was nothing new in expansion talks and there were no moves in sight on the horizon via relocation.
Next, he spoke with the National Post and issued the following pointed denial:
"We are in no different position today with respect to expansion than we were the last time we answered the same questions," he wrote in an email to National Post on Wednesday. "There has been interest expressed, we have and will listen to the interest, but we haven't defined a process and certainly no decisions have been made."
The Post also shared a radio interview Maple Leafs CEO Tim Leiweke gave Wednesday morning on 590 The Fan in Toronto:
"The commissioner and I had other business this morning, so we talked for a while and this came up," he told the station. "And I asked him, 'Did I miss a meeting?' And he laughed and said, 'no.'"
"What I can tell you, 100 percent, as of this morning, for sure? This isn't on the agenda right now," Leiweke told The Fan.
There's a lot of talk of a lack of plans and "not on the agenda right now," but this topic will never really go away. The league currently has an imbalance in conferences with 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the West. That provides a competitive disadvantage for Eastern Conference teams when it comes to making the playoffs and that's something that probably won't fly for long.
Getting two teams into the West would be ideal, but the strong allure of adding teams in Canada, most notably in Quebec City, which has a building near completion to house an NHL team, it's going to be tricky.
Chances of the league expanding to 34 teams seems outlandish for a number of reasons, not the least of which that would make more teams to share revenue with and there are enough struggling franchises to take care of first.
Either way, whether it's Seattle or Las Vegas, it would appear that one day, maybe not by 2017, but one day, there is going to be a new team or two in the West. It may not be in the plans now, but it has to be something the league will consider seriously.
As these rumors get fired up, the chatter will persist and it should. It's fun to talk about and dream about. Practicality sometimes gets thrown out of the window, but the expansion discussion is one worth having often, even if it is bound to irk those within the league that have to continually shoot down the rumors and too-soon reports.