The Sin City could be getting its very own NHL team soon. Rumors that have been circulating for years have turned into talks and meetings about a potential expansion. Today poker star, Canadian native, and hockey fan Daniel Negreanu tweeted out:
While the contents actually discussed at the meeting remain a mystery, the fact there was even a meeting with potential owners is a good sign for those hoping for the expansion to move a step closer to becoming a reality, unless, of course, this is a repeat episode of John Spano and the New York Islanders.
Whether or not the NHL would be successful in Las Vegas is obviously one of the big questions that needs to be answered before the expansion can move forward. While there may be plenty of talent to go around, financial success is the biggest factor in whether or not Vegas gets a team.
The Sin City is not a stranger to hockey. The Las Vegas Thunder, a former team in the International Hockey league was active in the desert beginning in 1993 and eventually folded in 1999. The Las Vegas Wranglers, an ECHL team, began operations at rink under the New Orleans hotel during the 2003-2004 season. The Wranglers experienced considerable success in Las Vegas up until the 2014-2015 ECHL season when they voluntarily suspended operations while in search for a new place to call home ice.
Unlike the Wranglers, the new Vegas NHL team already has an arena secured for a new NHL team to call home should they decide to go all the way. With home ice already in place, the expansion faces one less obstacle. Still though, outside of generating profits and revenue, building a brand new arena, and ownership, there’s a lot of skepticism surrounding the idea of making Vegas the permanent home for an NHL team.
However, former hockey star and analyst Jeremy Roenick seems to think it’s a good idea. In a conversation with Sports Illustrated on Monday, January 12th, Roenick reaffirmed his position on the Vegas expansion. He stated:
“I think it’ll happen, I think it can work,” and “there’s a lot of money there, and I think a lot of people would love to go to Vegas to watch their favorite team play. It wouldn’t be bad to be the first pro sports team in Vegas. I think the NHL likes to be the pioneers in that aspect.”
But what would the fanbase of that team look like? This is the question that’s been pestering me the most since the NHL Las Vegas expansion went from being speculation to a reality. The location of the new Las Vegas Arena would be right behind Monte Carlo and New York New York casinos on the Strip. I am sure that when all the details are sorted out and they break ground on the construction of the project, the Arena will be every bit as extravagant and over-the-top as the rest of the Vegas Strip, but it’s who will be attending games at that arena that I am not so sure about.
From what I know, Vegas locals tend to avoid the Strip as much as they can. This means that a good number of the attendees at the games would be out of towners or those coming to visit Vegas for a short period of time. A team there seems doomed to a rowdy crowd of outsiders looking for something to do before a night of partying. The way I see it, without a consistent fanbase, a lot is lost. There’s a sense of permanence that’s lost without a consistent fanbase on home ice.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe an NHL team in Vegas is just what they need to bring locals to the Strip to watch their team play. Maybe it’ll be the opposite of an inconsistent fanbase and instead be a team with diehard fans who come to watch their team play, which would be great for Las Vegas.
Of course, it’s not like they’re not taking the fanbase into consideration. According to an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, Bill Foley, current chairman of Fidelity National Financial and potential owner of the future NHL franchise in Las Vegas, devised a plan that would kill two birds with one stone. Foley wants 10,000 people to commit to season tickets for the new hockey team in Vegas and starting in early February, they’ll have the chance to put down a deposit for those tickets. The ticket drive will determine whether or not there is a market for professional hockey in Vegas while simultaneously determining if there are fans willing to commit to supporting a team and building a lasting fanbase.
In his interview with Sports Illustrated, Roenick also stated that the NHL would like to be a pioneer in Vegas’ journey into professional sports teams, and I am inclined to agree with the great JR. If the numbers add up, there is a market and the talent is there, then it would be great for the NHL to bring a professional sports franchise to Vegas, but if not, it may only confirm for the rest of pro-sports that Vegas just might not be the place to build a lasting, successful franchise. In the end, I suppose that, like most everything else in Sin City, bringing an NHL team to Vegas is just going to have to be a gamble.