The NHL's executive committee isn't ready to make a recommendation on expansion because it's considering the issue "in a very orderly and businesslike way," Commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday, adding that the group could take a few months and might ultimately recommend adding no teams, one team or two.
Bids by groups from Las Vegas and Quebec City have been undergoing scrutiny for possible admission. Bettman said questions such as how to conduct expansion and entry drafts and how to address the NHL's geographic imbalance — it now has 16 teams in the East and 14 in the West — merit additional study.
"This is a very important decision. Lots of things have to be evaluated and considered," Bettman said before the All-Star skills competition at Bridgestone Arena. Although speculation has centered on expansion for the 2017-18 season, he said the NHL won't rush to action.
Bettman covered many issues during his news conference, including the lack of an agreement that would allow NHL players to represent their respective homelands at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He said the International Ice Hockey Federation told him two months ago NHL and the players' association had a year to decide, but Bettman said the IIHF and International Olympic Committee haven't said how much they will pay for players' transportation and insurance. That must be settled before discussions can continue, he said.
Bettman also said the NHL will announce plans for "an extensive centennial celebration" in 2017, which is also the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, the 100th anniversary of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Canada's 150th birthday.
The East won the lighthearted All-Star skills challenge, 29-12, so the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions will play each other in the first of Sunday's 20-minute, three-on-three games. The Pacific and Central will play the second game; the winners will meet in the finale. Montreal's P.K. Subban won the breakaway challenge in a fan vote after he wore Jaromir Jagr's jersey and a mullet wig, and Detroit's Dylan Larkin won the fastest skater challenge, completing a lap in an All-Star-record 12.984 seconds. Hometown favorite Shea Weber won the hardest shot contest at 108.1 mph. for the West. San Jose's Brent Burns took a shot while wearing a Chewbacca mask and shared the ice with his son — who did a post-goal dance — and the son of teammate Joe Pavelski….Enforcer John Scott, who declined the NHL's request to withdraw after fans voted him the Pacific captain, got a stick-tapping ovation from players and fans during the hardest shot challenge. He wore an NHL jersey instead of a team jersey; he played for Arizona when he was chosen but was traded to Montreal and sent to the minor leagues.
Bettman said the NHL's website, www.nhl.com, will relaunch Monday…. Bettman also said the league had donated $200,000 to pay rehabilitation costs for Denna Laing, who has been paralyzed from the mid-chest down since she fell into the boards while playing for Boston in the women's Outdoor Classic game at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 31.