League ready to test Vegas waters

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The NHL has taken a baby step, but potentially an important one, in the idea of expanding to Las Vegas.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced after the first day of the board of governors' meetings that the league has agreed to allow potential Las Vegas team owner William Foley the right to conduct a season-ticket drive in order to gauge the market's interest in having an NHL team.

But Bettman stressed several times during his media address that this does not tie the league to a guarantee of expanding to Las Vegas.

"Please do not make more out of this than it is," Bettman said.

Still, clearly it is at the very least the NHL dipping its toe in the idea of a team in Vegas by allowing a potential owner to get a handle on fan interest there. Bettman said he broached the idea with the league's 30 owners of allowing Foley to conduct the season-ticket drive and nobody objected.

However, Bettman stressed again that the league still hasn't officially begun the expansion process.

"Las Vegas is a unique market, and both [the owners] and the potential expansion team owner, Bill Foley, had some questions that he would like to answer," Bettman said. "Bill asked me last week what would be ... our reaction to them conducting a season-ticket drive to measure the level of interest. And so, if there is interest there, he will continue to pursue that interest. And if it turns out that there isn't interest there, then he would stop his efforts and stop using valuable time and money in pursuit of a team if it didn't make sense."

It's expected that if and when the NHL does expand, to Las Vegas or to other rumored destinations such as Seattle or Quebec City or a second team in Toronto, the expansion fee is rumored to be around $500 million.

AEG is building a 20,000-seat arena in Las Vegas.