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NHL gets real dang snarky with expansion groups that missed deadline

The NHL really still is a Mickey Mouse league sometimes.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Imagine that you're a businessman like Ray Bartoszek.

You've been planning, plotting and hoping for years to bring an NHL franchise to the Seattle area. Your first attempt was the relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes, who you tried to buy in 2013 before they ultimately signed a deal to stay in the desert.

So after you were scuttled on that front, you spent two years developing your Plan B -- and of course dumping your money into said plan. You started moving on it this spring, filing initial paperwork on an arena project in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila in April 2015.

Then, it all starts to come together: the NHL formally opened the expansion process on July 6, and you have the opportunity to actually put in an application for an expansion team.

But the league only gives you two weeks. July 6 was the day applications were made available, and interested applicants had to file said application by July 20. By that deadline, you had to do the following ...

  • a) Give the NHL a $10 million application fee, $2 million of which is nonrefundable.
  • b) Actually make sure your arena plan -- which, again, you just started taking action on a few months ago -- will work out. Otherwise, your application probably isn't going to be approved and you'll be out millions.

So yeah ... the two weeks didn't really work out for you. It was an impossible deadline for you to meet. But that's OK. You weren't ready yet. Not the end of the world. Maybe you're annoyed that the NHL didn't give you more time, but there's always next time ... right? Or maybe there are relocation options down the road. It's not the end.

Then, the day after the deadline, the NHL releases a press release that basically says you -- among with several other were never serious in the first place because you couldn't pull together a million loose ends in a two week time period. Emphasis below is ours.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / JULY 21, 2015

UPDATE ON NHL EXPANSION APPLICATION PROCESS

NEW YORK (July 21, 2015) - The National Hockey League today released the following update relative to the NHL expansion application process:

"As previously announced, NHL expansion applications were made available to all potentially interested applicants on July 6. Since that date, we have received requests from, and responded by sending applications to, 16 separate groups/individuals.

"The deadline for filing an application and proceeding in the NHL expansion process was last night. We can confirm that we have received two applications: one from Bill Foley for a franchise in Las Vegas, Nevada, and one from Quebecor for a franchise in Quebec City, Quebec.

"Our purpose, in initiating the expansion process in the manner we did, was not only to explore the possibility of admitting new members to the NHL but also, at the outset, to set realistic guideposts to distinguish between bona fide expressions of interest (i.e., those which have at least substantial ownership capabilities and an arena or the realistic possibility of an arena) from those indications of potential interest which were, at best, merely hopes or aspirations. Apparently, only Mr. Foley and Quebecor have the confidence in their ability to secure an arena and suitable ownership capability to move forward with this process.

"We now intend to focus exclusively on the two expansion applications that have been submitted in accordance with the previously announced process. The process we have outlined for qualified applicants includes at least two more stages of documentation submission. We will provide no further updates until there is something substantive to announce."

That is snarky as hell right there.

The NHL is basically throwing all groups, aside from the Vegas and Quebec City groups that were able to meet their absurdly short deadline, under the bus. They're saying that all of the other groups that showed interest in this process -- Bartoszek and the other two Seattle groups, those from the Toronto area, Portland, Kansas City, etc. -- were just wasting their time. That they were merely dreamers who didn't really take this seriously enough.

OK, NHL. You're understandably annoyed that you didn't get applications from Seattle or any of the other cities, because now you're stuck with only two options. Maybe that disappointment is something you express in private away from the media, or internally to your NHL colleagues around a conference table in Manhattan. But to say that -- or at least insinuate it -- in a public statement is just bad business.

It's childish, really, especially given the hurdles you made these groups overcome in just a two week period.

Do you think that sort of public statement makes Bartoszek's group, or any of the other groups that have worked for years and spent their money exploring the complex world of arena funding and professional sports ownership, feel good about continuing the process? They could still fight for a team in Seattle, and the NHL could always move on their hard deadline down the road. But do these groups want to when the NHL acts like this in public?

This is business, and the NHL doesn't need to be friendly, but they could at least show some respect for people who are spending money lots of money out of their own pockets in an attempt to get into the hockey business. It's little stuff like this that justifies people who think the NHL is a joke of a league.

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