“I don’t think anyone needs to worry about the future of the franchise in Carolina. That’s where the league believes it should be and where it will be.”
— NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, November 2015
“I don’t see the Hurricanes relocating, period. I think the Triangle is a terrific market.”
— Bettman, June 2016
“There’s no imperative for the franchise to be sold on any immediate basis, and the franchise is not moving.”
-- Bettman, Jan. 28, 2017
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman keeps saying the same thing: the Carolina Hurricanes are a franchise that will not be moving from the Triangle.
There are some in the NHL who do not believe — or apparently do not want to believe — Bettman. Some point to Quebec City and its expensive, all-the-bells-and-whistles Videotron Centre and say it’s inevitable the NHL will return and that the Hurricanes are a logical choice for relocation.
Bettman keeps saying no. Again and again. He did it again Saturday in a press conference at the NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
Will Peter Karmanos Jr. one day sell the team? Yes. Is his asking price high? Yes. Have there been groups interesting in buying the team? Yes.
But the Triangle remains one of the fastest growing markets in the country and Bettman and the NHL would be loath to leave it.
“Peter may sell, he may not sell,” Bettman said Saturday. “He may sell all of it. He may sell some of it. He may sell none of it. There's no formal sale process going on. There's no imperative for the franchise to be sold on any immediate basis, and the franchise is not moving. I hope that was definitive enough.”
Almost forgotten 20 years later is that the Triangle once made a bid for an NHL expansion team. In January 1997, the fledgling ownership group, with Charlotte businessman Felix Sabates as its point man, made its formal expansion presentation to the NHL executive committee in New York.
Karmanos was not on the committee at the time but as an owner sat in on the presentations. He was looking to move the Hartford Whalers and liked what he heard about the Triangle. When the Sabates group withdrew its expansion bid, Karmanos was open to moving the Whalers to the Triangle and did, even though it meant playing the first two seasons in Greensboro while an arena was being built.
PNC Arena, opened in 1999, has gone through name changes through the years but has held up well. The Hurricanes’ arena lease, as Karmanos often has mentioned, is favorable. There are plans for an arena expansion and other upgrades, with talk of possibly building a practice rink.
Karmanos offered five-year investment shares in the team in the fall of 2011. Among the Hurricanes Holdings investors are Ron Francis, the Hurricanes’ executive vice president and general manager, and Charlotte Checkers owner Michael Kahn. Two of the initial investors cashed in after five years, which wasn’t unexpected.
A Karmanos family lawsuit has been settled. Karmanos has other business ventures underway in Detroit. At 73, he remains a pretty busy man.
A Hockey Hall of Fame member, Karmanos brought the NHL to North Carolina, has won a Stanley Cup and continues to say his commitment to the Triangle is strong.
Bettman believes that. The commissioner has said it, again and again.