NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Monday that he’s exploring the possibility of building an outdoor rink in Canada, and has signed off on a $15 million investment to help fund it.
The investment comes as Canada’s economy and hockey scene continue to deteriorate, with the NHL set to announce the start of its expansion draft later this month.
Bettman said he was looking for a venue that could accommodate a large hockey crowd.
“We’ve heard from a lot of people that it would be a great fit,” Bettman told reporters at the Winter Classic, which takes place in Las Vegas on Feb. 25-26.
“It would be like having a hockey team on a regular basis in a place where people are paying to see the game.”
Bettman added that he was hopeful that the outdoor rink could be ready by the end of the year.
“I don’t know what the exact timeframe is,” he said.
“But the way we see it is that it should be ready in 2018.
That’s the timeline that I’ve got on the table.”
The NHL’s goal is to begin construction in 2018 and the opening of the arena in 2019.
Bettmen said the project would be financed by private investors, but did not offer a dollar figure.
“The ultimate goal is that we can come up with the money and then we can go build,” Bettmen told reporters.
“At some point in time we’re going to have to have a stadium, and that’s something that is going to be part of the equation.”
Bettmen also discussed how the league could expand in the United States, saying that he hopes to open the NHL’s first home in 2020.
“If we’re able to get to a point where we can open in 2019, that would be great, but the timeline has been kind of on hold for the last several years,” Bettmann said.
Bettmans comments come after a number of NHL teams announced plans for expansion this year.
The Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets are among the teams that have announced plans to begin their expansion projects this year, according to ESPN’s Adam Gretz.