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Calgary arena situation continues to frustrate Gary Bettman

NHL Centennial 100 Celebration

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 17: NHL Commisisoner Gary Bettman speaks during a Q&A with host Pierre Houde as part of the NHL Centennial 100 Celebration at Bonaventure Hotel on November 17, 2017 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

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It’s no secret that the Calgary Flames are looking to build a new arena, but the lack of progress between the team and the city has left everyone involved frustrated, including NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

“Calgary’s been very frustrating because the Flames have concluded they can’t make a building deal in Calgary so they’ll hang out and hang on as long as they can and we’ll just have to deal with those things as they come up,” Bettman told Prime Time Sports on Thursday.

“I think part of the reason that the Flames have stopped pursuing a new building in Calgary is they don’t see any prospect of making a deal for a new building on terms that make sense. And based on my experience up there, I understand why they’ve taken that position.”

As you’d imagine, the Flames are looking for a portion of the arena to be paid by taxpayers. Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi is unwilling to cough up a significant amount of public funds without eventually getting the money back.

Many people rolled their eyes when Brian Burke said that the team could move if they don’t get a new arena. And although it seems unlikely that owner Murray Edwards would pack up his team and go elsewhere, he could just simply sell the team to someone that is interested in taking them to a different city.

Watching the Flames leave Calgary still seems like a long shot, but Bettman has made it clear that he expects every team to have solid ownership and a quality home rink.

If a potential ownership group in Seattle is willing to fork out $650 million for an expansion team, what could Edwards fetch from someone who wants to move an established team to Houston, Quebec, or anywhere else?

On the flip side, it’s tough to argue with Nenshi’s position when you look at how the Islanders acquired the land at Belmont Park this week. Thanks to a $1-billion development bid, the Isles will get a new home, and the area will be completely transformed.

But unlike the Islanders, the Flames are unwilling to build anything without public funding. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for the great fans in Calgary, who are stuck in the middle of all this. There’s no way they can enjoy the on-ice product as much as they should be with all this talk of expansion and relocation going around.

It’ll be very interesting to see what the next move is because it doesn’t sound like the organization or the mayor are willing to change their stance on this major issue.


Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.