Yesterday Bettman had his state of the NHL press conference and two big topics were covered, or at least generated the most media interest. First is the sale of the Nashville Predators and whether they are going to move. Second is the possibility of an NHL team in Winnipeg. In both instances some in the media are misinterpreting what he said.
First let’s talk about Nashville. He did his best to try to persuade everyone that the Predators are going to stay in Nashville talking extensively about how they have a 14 year lease and the city if it chooses can guarantee that they will stay in Nashville. But when pressed on the issue and the fact that the Predators leaving Nashville might be a foregone conclusion Bettman said “That’s why I answered the question the way I did.” In other words, he was choosing his words with a purpose of trying to maintain fan interest in Nashville rather than trying to reflect reality. Let’s face it guys, the Predators are done in Nashville and it is only a matter of when, not if, no matter how Bettman wants to formulate his words. Liepold doesn’t want them anymore and Basille only wants them to move them. Basille didn’t buy the Penguins because the league told him he wouldn’t be allowed to move them. Basille is not going to buy the Predators if he can’t move them because if he just wanted to own an NHL team why not buy the NHL team that is closer to home (Pittsburgh) and has maybe the two best young talents in the NHL today (Crosby and Malkin) along with a soon to be star defenseman (Whitney) and possibly a soon to be star goalie (Fleury). Basille wants a team and wants that team in the city of his choosing which would be Waterloo.
And now for Winnipeg. Everyone is getting excitited by the fact that Bettman said the NHL returning to Winnipeg was ‘interesting and intriguing thought.’ People are jumping all over that and reading it as Bettman would approve of a team returning to Winnipeg but the reality is, he isn’t anywhere close to that state of mind. In fact, he was mostly just referring to an article he read (or heard about) in the National Post and he later went on to clarfiy his statement: ‘When I say it intrigues me, it’s something I haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about or researching.’ In other words he has never really personally thought about the NHL in Winnipeg. There has been several news stories talking about the idea of a team back in Winnipeg for a number of months now and back in December people were talking about it as a possible destination for the Penguins but even with all that talk it never prompted Bettman research it or even think about it much. In other words I don’t think people of Winnipeg should get too excited about having Bettman push for a team to return to Winnipeg any time soon and certainly not before Kansas City or possibly Las Vegas or Portland or Seattle get a team.