NHL Expansion to Include Las Vegas?


For months we’ve heard about the possibility that Gary Bettman and his posse could look at expanding the NHL to accommodate another couple of teams.  While Quebec and Seattle appear to be the front runners, other markets like Hamilton or even a second team in Toronto have also been whispered as possibilities.  What about including Las Vegas on that list; the city that never sleeps?  According to Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee, the notion of putting a team in Fabulous Las Vegas could be in the cards for the NHL.

Voisin’s article is centered around the Maloof’s who currently own the Sacramento Kings of the NBA.  They apparently want out of their marriage to the Kings and according to Voisin, a deal is in the works to sell the team to Seattle investors Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer.  The pair would then look at relocating the club to Seattle and thus freeing the Maloof’s of their ties to the NBA.  All so that they can venture into the idea of owing a franchise is another major sports league, either the MLB or the NHL.

While Voisin focuses on the Kings and how the Maloof’s are trying to leave town as quickly as possible, she does mention that the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has met with the interested owners.  Furthermore, the Maloof’s have “for months looked into buying a hockey franchise, with Las Vegas among the possible destinations” writes Voisin.

So could this actually be a potential point of expansion for Bettman and the NHL?  I’m sure he’d love to get into business with the Maloof’s who would come with deep pockets.  What about having them buying the Phoenix Coyotes and moving the team to Las Vegas?  Bettman has said he wants to keep the team in Phoenix, but if no owners can be found and this family of investors is knocking on the door, would Gary be foolish to not at least listen to what they have to say?  It appears he already has listened but no one knows how far the league’s commissioner would actually go to explore the possibilities of putting a team in Vegas.

With no other professional sports team currently in the highly populated city of tourists, it would be a hard sell to many hockey fans to put a team in Vegas.  Known more for it’s night life, high profile gambling and the ideal bachelor and bachelorette parties, the frozen game of hockey would be a side show that would rank somewhere after Carrot Top, Criss Angel and The Men Down Under.

Mr. Bettman had best use his better sense of judgement on this one and take off his rose colored glasses before looking at expanding to Nevada.  Dollars and cents aside, Las Vegas is not a hockey market.  In fact, you could argue that it’s not a football market, it’s not a baseball market and it’s not a basketball market.  It’s a niche market that has one sole purpose; entertainment.

Are major sporting events not entertainment?  Yes they are, but not the kind that drums up the interest when people venture to Las Vegas.  Would a group of young men who are heading to Vegas for a weekend to celebrate their pals’ last weekend of freedom rather take in a hockey game or play cards, drink and find mischief on “the strip.”  If given that choice I know which one I’m taking if I was back in my early twenties, and it doesn’t involve ice (well maybe a little but it wouldn’t be used to skate on).  You get the picture.

A second team in Toronto or better yet a team back in Quebec City has the most logic when looking at the impact on the game of hockey.  You don’t have to look any further than the Winnipeg Jets and how they’ve strived since receiving their beloved team back.  Corporate dollars aside, Winnipeg has proven to Bettman that the city and it’s fans will support the club for a guaranteed five years. After that, if management can’t put a winning product on the ice, then you can call it a failed experiment for the second time around.  Until then, they have the season ticket sales to prove that moving the Trashers from Atlanta to north of the border was the right call.

So when looking at Las Vegas as a potential home to a NHL team or one of the aforementioned Canadian cities it becomes clear what the answer is.  Expanding the NHL to include Las Vegas would be like betting on double zeros all night long.  The payoff “could” be great, but the odds are stacked firmly against you Gary.

It’s your bet Mr. Bettman.  Choose wisely.