Greg Beacham, AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday that the NHL isn’t planning imminent expansion, but is willing to listen to proposals. Seattle and Quebec City have been mentioned frequently as expansion targets, but both have significant problems as NHL homes.

Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer, who partnered with lead investor Chris Hansen last year in an attempt to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, is finalizing a deal to buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. Hansen still hopes to build a large arena in Seattle to house teams from the NBA and the NHL, but has said he isn’t interested in being a majority owner of an NHL team.

Bettman flew to Seattle during the playoffs to meet with city officials.

“Seattle seems to have the most number of people interested,” Bettman said. “The fact is there’s no building that’s on the horizon. The person who controls the rights to build a building in Seattle is intent upon having an NBA team before he builds a building. Based on what’s happened to date, and the fact that his partner has now bought a different franchise, I don’t know that there’s any prospect of a building in Seattle.

“It’s nice that there’s interest, but there’s really not a whole lot for us to do with it.”

Small-market Quebec City is building the $400 million, 18,000-seat Quebecor Arena to be ready in September 2015. But the NHL’s potential return to the former home of the Nordiques could further unbalance the league’s makeup — particularly without an expansion to Seattle. The Eastern Conference has 16 teams, and the West has 14 after last summer’s realignment.

“If we get to a point where there’s enough interest in enough places that it warrants consideration, then the Board of Governors may well invoke a formal expansion process and we’ll look at everything,” Bettman said. “I don’t think this is something you do on a piecemeal basis.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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