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NHL expansion: League wants 32 teams, says former NHLPA head Paul Kelly

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Former NHLPA chief Paul Kelly says the NHL spoke with him about potential expansion. It's in their plans.

Bruce Bennett

Former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly was in Markham, Ont. on Tuesday evening to address City Council as the Toronto suburb discusses whether or not to approve an arena deal that could eventually bring the NHL to town.

Both during and after his address, Kelly said publicly what many people already have believed to be the case for some time now: The NHL wants 32 teams, and expansion is likely to come in the Greater Toronto Area (like, for example, Markham) and Quebec City.

Kelly hasn't been in charge of the NHLPA since 2009, so that shows you how long (at least) the NHL has been pondering the expansion option. Many will be critical of the league's position here, and it's a compelling argument to make when you look at how owners cried poor during the recent lockout.

But the NHL will argue that it's the location of the teams that matters, pointing to the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg as a move that helped the NHL generate extra revenue. The NHL seems to believe that more teams in strong markets will help prop up weaker, troubled markets.