NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says he doesn't see the Carolina Hurricanes relocating, while addressing recent rumors and speculation that has been swirling around the team ahead of the league's vote on potential expansion. The commissioner spoke with Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer to "take down the temperature" on the rampant speculation regarding the Hurricanes amid some recent developments.
The rumors about the potential for the Hurricanes moving have been going on for the past two years, essentially. Owner Peter Karmanos had publicly expressed an interest in selling a majority stake in the team to start thinking of a "succession plan." That led some to believe that the new majority owner could end up being a deep-pocketed group that had designs on moving the team to a different market. More recently, as in last week, speculation only intensified when it was revealed that Karmanos was being sued by his three adult sons for $105 million.
The sons allege that the Hurricanes owner borrowed money from a trust that was committed to them in order to help support the Hurricanes. Karmanos had not paid them back on the designated timeline, thus triggering the sons to take action. Knowing that Karmanos had to dip into money that was not intended for the team, it raised questions about the financial stability of the franchise.
On top of all of this, the league's vote regarding expansion looms. The NHL is currently considering ownership groups in Las Vegas and Quebec City for expansion, though it appears Quebec City's chances for securing a team now are dwindling. Because of the relatively slow process expansion has undergone, speculation continued to rise that perhaps they were stalling to see if relocation of a team would be a better option.
Bettman touched on all of those issues in his interview with the News & Observer and offered the following comment:
"I don't see the Hurricanes relocating, period," Bettman said in an interview. "I think the Triangle is a terrific market. A good fan base has developed around the Hurricanes and I see the opportunity for continued growth for this franchise in the future.
"Peter Karmanos is a terrific owner. This franchise has never missed a beat and he has been there to support it, financially and emotionally. All this speculation is unfair to the franchise and its fans. It's completely unfounded."
Bettman also downplayed the lawsuit against Karmanos, calling it a "family squabble" that would not impact the team and noted that Karmanos had been fulfilling all of his financial obligations with the league.
Now the focus turns away from the distracting relocation rumors and back to expansion, which still could have an impact on the Hurricanes in some small way.
The executive committee, made up of NHL execs and a selection of NHL owners that reportedly includes Karmanos, met Tuesday in New York City to discuss what they will recommend to the larger Board of Governors at their meeting on June 22. Bettman said before the Stanley Cup Final that a vote is expected to be held at that meeting, with multiple outcomes possible, including accepting one or both teams for expansion, deferring expansion to a later date or voting not to expand.
At this point, momentum seems to be building that the league will indeed expand, but probably only by one team -- Las Vegas. That leaves Quebec City with an NHL-ready arena, but no NHL team for the time being and they probably can thank the struggling Canadian dollar for that.
Many believe the league will eventually return to the former home of the Nordiques, but when is a big question mark. However, if Quebec City gets left out, that leaves an ownership group with deep pockets and an arena already built, ready and willing for any opportunity to revive the Nords. Maybe the league will expand again, but with Quebec City always looming in the background, relocation rumors and speculation will persist.
Teams like Carolina will continually be brought up, whether it's fair or not. However, it's looking like the commissioner is effectively pouring cold water on the immediate future when it comes to the Hurricanes and relocation. That's a good thing.
Though the Canes have struggled in attendance in recent years, they haven't had a team that was worth seeing in some time. That's beginning to change as the Hurricanes start focusing on a younger core with players like Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner leading the way, and strong prospects on the horizon. Rebuilds are difficult, but once the team starts getting more competitive again, the market has shown before that it will support the team and passionately so.