(Reuters) - The National Hockey League said on Wednesday its Board of Governors have given the go-ahead to opening a formal expansion process but that there was no guarantee any new franchises will ultimately be awarded.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league has received numerous expressions of interest about joining the National Hockey League over the past several years from potential markets and ownership groups.
"The Board decided today to examine those expressions more formally and also to welcome any other groups or markets that may be considering pursuit of an NHL team," Bettman said in a statement.
"The fact that we are beginning this process does not necessarily mean that any expansion teams will be granted as a result of this process."
The NHL, which has 30 teams, said it will make applications available starting July 6, and all should be filed by Aug. 10.
The league said the earliest an expansion team could join the NHL would be the 2017-18 season.
Las Vegas, Seattle and Quebec City are considered leading candidates for any expansion.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine)