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Bettman to AP: NHL considering Sabres' proposal to host pre-draft scouting combine

In this June 12, 2013, file photo, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during an NHL hockey news conference in Chicago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Nam Y. Huh

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In this June 12, 2013, file photo, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during an NHL hockey news conference in Chicago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Nam Y. Huh

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The NHL is already interested in Sabres owner Terry Pegula's $172-million downtown Buffalo hockey/entertainment complex, even though the facility is not completed yet.

Commissioner Gary Bettman told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the league is considering the Sabres' pitch to relocate the NHL's annual pre-draft scouting combine from Toronto to Buffalo.

"It's something that's being discussed, and I know it's something that Ted Black is vigorously pursuing," Bettman said by phone, referring to the Sabres president. "It's a work in progress. We haven't made any decisions. But we're taking the expression of interest very seriously."

Bettman made the revelation during an interview regarding Pegula and the facility he's building. It's called HarborCenter, and is currently under construction across the street from the Sabres arena.

In a text to the AP, Black said discussions with the NHL regarding Buffalo hosting the combine have been taking place for the past several months.

"The NHL's interest in Buffalo is very flattering and it is another example of the ways that we're trying to promote Buffalo and HarborCenter as an international hockey destination," Black wrote.

The facility is set to open in October and feature two ice rinks, 11 locker rooms, classroom space and a high-performance training facility.

HarbourCenter will be connected to the Sabres arena and eventually also include a full-service hotel, which is set to open next year.

The combine is run by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau and is traditionally held in Toronto in late May. It brings together the league's top draft-eligible prospects for testing and workouts that are open to the NHL's 30 teams.

The testing is exclusively done off-ice inside a convention centre room.

Some teams, including the Sabres, prefer to also hold additional on-ice workouts with prospects. HarborCenter has the potential to do both on- and off-ice testing under one roof.

The complex is already attracting interest in hockey circles.

Earlier this month, USA Hockey announced its annual All-American Prospects game will be played in Buffalo for the next two years.

USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean has called HarborCenter a one-of-a-kind hockey facility in America. Ogrean anticipates HarborCenter will lead to USA Hockey hosting other events in Buffalo.

The Sabres are preparing to make a bid to host the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships.

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