NHL’s Bettman meets with Calgary officials about arena talks

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addresses reporters in Calgary on Feb. 28, 2023. Global News

The NHL’s top boss has noticed a change in tone around conversations about building a new event centre in Calgary.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in the southern Alberta city Tuesday and shared some of what he heard from a “constructive” and “friendly” meeting with Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp.

“The discussion today was really the first time I heard where everybody was talking in the same language about what has to be done in terms of the importance of getting a new event centre for Calgary,” Bettman told reporters Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Gondek echoed Bettman’s comments about the constructive dialogue between all partners.

“Calgary is a city that has always been built through collaborative efforts such as this,” the mayor said. “We all agree that we are stronger together and have a unified goal of building a new event centre for the city.”
Bettman said he usually only gets involved in area talks when necessary or when he thinks it would be helpful.

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He also confirmed he had a conversation with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith a few weeks ago.

“The building came up, but that wasn’t the ostensible purpose of the call.”

On Feb. 6, Sharp, who chairs the city’s event centre committee, said talks between Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) and CAA Icon, whom the city contracted to broker a deal, have been “moving along quite well.”

Click to play video: 'Talks ‘moving along quite well’ for new Calgary arena deal as province indicates support'
Talks ‘moving along quite well’ for new Calgary arena deal as province indicates support

But the commissioner who recently marked 30 years with the NHL said the decade-long saga of getting a new arena in Calgary has inevitably driven costs up.

“There’s a lot of work to do because things have gotten harder with the passage of time. Things have gotten more expensive, interest rates are up, but I think everybody’s focused on what needs to be done,” Bettman said.

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Bettman confirmed that there are a number of site options being explored, but would not say more.

“Yes, there are a couple of potential sites and I know that there’s been some evaluation that’s going on. But the nuts and bolts of what’s going on isn’t for me to get into, it’s really for the principals.”

When Bettman was in Calgary in May 2022 for the playoffs, he said if any large league events were to be held in the home of the Flames, a new building would be needed.

“I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anybody,” he said on May 3, 2022.

The Scotiabank Saddledome is the oldest arena in the league that hasn’t had a major retrofit done to it and is the only NHL rink that still stands from the 1980s.

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Since Edmonton’s Rogers Place was opened in 2016, the Detroit Red Wings, the New York Islanders and the Arizona Coyotes have all moved into new digs.

In October 2022, the City of Calgary announced the management consulting firm was engaging with Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) on a new round of talks after the previous deal expired at the end of 2021.

The next meeting of the city’s event centre committee is expected in March.

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