With the NHL Awards set to take place at the MGM Grand and NHL owners heading to Sin City for meetings, talk of the league cranking up a franchise in Las Vegas has been reaching a fever pitch.
Leading the charge is businessman Bill Foley, the 70-year-old head of Hockey Vision Las Vegas. He believes that the NHL will have a team in the city by 2017.
The potential franchise met its goal of securing deposits on 10,000 season tickets in the spring and says they have about 11,500 with 1,000 in unpaid commitments from casinos and local businesses.
In many ways, Las Vegas seems an ideal fit for a sports franchise. With a new arena going up behind the New York New York Hotel and Casino, the space is certainly there. And for many, including local journalists and business owners, the franchise’s arrival seems like a matter of when and not if.
But before you place your bets on hockey in Nevada, it pays to remember that the NHL still has a say on the matter. Foley’s proclamation for 2017 doesn’t actually have a factual basis and there’s a lot of speculation behind-the-scenes that should be addressed.
Rumours that the National Hockey League is looking to expand from 30 teams to 32 teams are only rumours at this point, for starters. The NHL has made no announcements regarding such plans.
And NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s only move thus far has been to confirm that he’s going to “update” his own Board of Governors as to interest from potential markets. Those markets include Las Vegas, Seattle and Quebec City.
“If the Board has any interest in pursuing it, my recommendation would be, then, to open a formal expansion process,” Bettman said during the Stanley Cup Final. “And even if they greenlight a formal expansion process, it doesn’t mean we’re going to expand. It means we’ll go through the steps of looking through things and the conclusion at the end of the process could very well be no expansion.”
Short form: there’s a process and starting the process doesn’t mean that the NHL is going to expand.
Some have speculated that there’s a formal vote from the NHL owners on expansion to take place as early as September. The Board of Governors will be meeting in New York City around that time and the vote could happen then. And even if that does happen, it just means that the process has begun. It’s by no means a “thumbs up” on hockey in Vegas.
So while Foley and Hockey Vision Las Vegas certainly has a job to do here, so does the NHL. They have to do their due diligence. They don’t need another Arizona on their hands.