OTTAWA -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he would "find it hard to believe" a deal will not be worked out to replace or refurbish Nassau Coliseum, thus keeping the Islanders on Long Island, before the lease expires in 2015.
"They still have 31/2 years to go," Bettman said in an informal session after a news conference here during All-Star Weekend. "I find it hard to believe that there won't be a solution to that building situation. Long Island deserves a new building, not just for hockey, but for concerts and family shows and the like. And I've got to believe the people in charge of those things will tend to it in due course."
Bettman, speaking with reporters after a Board of Governors meeting, was peppered with many questions about moving a team and returning to Quebec City, as the league did this past year when it reunited with Winnipeg. The team in question was not the Islanders but the league-owned Phoenix Coyotes -- the former Winnipeg Jets, who have struggled to make a go of it in Glendale, Ariz.
The commissioner said he tells every city that is building or improving an NHL-ready arena not to get its hopes up because the league makes no promises about giving anyone a franchise. "We don't like to move teams," he said.
When he was asked about Seattle as a possible new site, he agreed that it is a good city and a potential natural rival for the Vancouver Canucks, who are fairly isolated geographically.
"But," Bettman said, "there is no building."