Will Seattle get an NHL expansion team in 2017?

SEATTLE - Reports on social media that say the National Hockey League will soon expand to Seattle are tantalizing - but unconfirmed.

Howard Bloom, a national reporter who writes the blog, set the Twitter-verse on fire by tweeting: "NHL expansion: Four teams added by 2017 ... Quebec City ... Toronto ... Seattle ... and Las Vegas."

Meanwhile, Tony Gallagher of The Province newspaper in Canada added fuel to the fire by writing that NHL expansion to Las Vegas is a "done deal."

Sports Illustrated's S-I Wire picked up the four-team expansion story, naming Bloom as their source.

Reached by phone, Bloom admits he has no official source, but insists NHL expansion to Seattle is inevitable.

"It's no longer a matter of 'if,' but 'when' ... focused on 2017, the 100th anniversary of the National Hockey League. It's a really, really opportune date for the NHL to expand," he says.

He also agrees that a Las Vegas franchise is a done deal - and the NHL must expand not one team at a time but in pairs.

The NHL, for its part, insists expansion is not imminent.

"Nothing has happened to change the status quo," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. "There continues to be interest from some markets, and we continue to be interested in discussing the possibilities, but there is no plan moving forward in terms of expansion."

A person with knowledge of the league's plans, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said reports of a possible four-team NHL expansion were news to him and "I don't believe it."

Nevertheless, Bloom is standing by his prediction. He does not say who would put up the money for a Seattle franchise, although several names have been linked to potential NHL ownership in Seattle - including Vancouver, B.C., real estate mogul Victor Coleman.

The real caveat here has to do with the arena issue. Chris Hansen's proposed arena would accommodate the NHL, but the agreement with Seattle and King County calls for an NBA team first. Hansen has said his group does not have interest in being majority owners of an NHL team.

Bettman has said Seattle's arena situation has to be settled before the NHL would consider expanding there.

"Seattle seems to have the most number of people interested," Bettman said in June. "The fact is there's no building that's on the horizon. The person who controls the rights to build a building in Seattle is intent upon having an NBA team before he builds a building. Based on what's happened to date, and the fact that his partner has now bought a different franchise, I don't know that there's any prospect of a building in Seattle. It's nice that there's interest, but there's really not a whole lot for us to do with it."

And Jeff Reading of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's office said the current memorandum of understanding still stands without any changes.

However, he added that the city "remains interested and excited about the possibility" of an NHL franchise.

The Associated Press contributed to this report