Las Vegas gets NHL team, clearly anyone with a $500m check can have one

As expected, the NHL announced yesterday that it will add an expansion franchise in Las Vegas in 2017, leading to celebration in that city and lots of derisive snorts from people who’ve noted that there are at least half a dozen bigger markets without NHL teams, most of which have a stronger history of hockey support than Vegas. (Seriously, Hartford has more TV households than Las Vegas.) What they don’t have, as I discussed last night in an article for Vice Sports, is a bunch of rich guys willing to sign a $500 million expansion fee check (at least not $500 million in U.S. dollars), and since the rich guys in question include one Florida financier and two Maloofs, there’s at least some suspicion that this is more an attempt to get into the NHL club than a long-term commitment to Las Vegas.

As for the arena angle, the new team (possibly to be called the Black Knights after owner Bill Foley’s financial company, but that’s yet to be decided) will play in T-Mobile Arena, which was privately built by MGM and AEG as part of Vegas’s arena land rush, and which is all new and shiny and apparently exciting to NHL bigwigs. What I haven’t been able to find any record of, probably because it’s a transaction between two private parties, is how much Foley and the Maloofs will be paying the arena as part of their lease, or how long the lease is for, all of which will have a huge impact on the team’s profitability, and on whether the Vegas franchise ends up there for the long haul or follows the Atlanta Thrashers into the long NHL history of failed experiments.

As for cities that didn’t get a team this time around, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman left the door wide open for further expansion, particularly citing the strength of the Quebec application, which was unfortunately undermined by the weakness of the Canadian dollar. Given the glut of billionaires compared to the limited number of major pro sports franchises, the NHL is clearly interested in following MLS’s lead and cashing in on expansion fees while the cashing is good — so if you have half a billion dollars burning a hole in your pocket and a desire to watch hockey from the owner’s box, give them a ring.


12 comments on “Las Vegas gets NHL team, clearly anyone with a $500m check can have one

  1. Didn’t the nba nix memphis grizzlies plans to change their name to memphis express (a nod to fed ex) because they did not want a corporate team name? Would the nhl do the same with black knights?

    • They didn’t for the Mighty Ducks. In fact, they had the commish, McNall (before he became a jailbird) and a couple of other embarrassed rich guys all playing a kazoo as they announced the “Qwack heard ’round the world” on live TV.

      The NHL would prostitute itself to anyone, even if they only turned out to have been pretending to have money (like McNall, Spano, Regis, the list is pretty much endless)

    • The owner is also an Army man and “Black Knights” is the name of the West Point sports teams. But it is not official that it will be the Black Knights…most new teams have a fan contest to build interest.

      Hartford is a larger hockey market but it is divided between Bruins and Rangers fans so having a lousy former WHA team try to build fan support was a tough row to hoe.

  2. Per http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nhl/2016/06/22/las-vegas-nhl-expansion/86239704/
    “Two months ago, Las Vegas opened the new T Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas strip that seats 17,500 for hockey. Foley has already taken deposits on 14,500 season tickets.”
    So I am amazed twice:
    1. The arena is 100% privately financed
    2. 14,500 season tickets have apparently already been sold
    Wow!

  3. He’s taken *refundable deposits* on 14,500 season tickets. So all this means, as noted in my Vice article linked above, is that 14,500 people (or ticket brokers, or Maloof employees) were willing to put down a $150 deposit, not that they’ll all buy tickets once they’re on sale.

    The Atlanta Thrashers took in 12,000 season ticket deposits before they got started, and that was no guarantee of success.

  4. Hi Neil,
    Thanks for ‘opening my eyes’ regarding the ticket deposits. Well, at least the public will not be taking a bath if and when the franchise fails.

  5. While I believe this will ultimately fail, I have to admit it is going to be fun to watch. There’s a certain circus atmosphere to watching a Las Vegas NHL franchise succeed or fail that was not present for Phoenix, Atlanta, etc.

    • Yeah, it will be fun. Much like watching Gomez Addams operating a model train layout.

      I wonder how long it will be til NBC when airing games of the Black Knights, will employ ‘crowd filling filters’ to make it seem that LV has hit the jackpot in drawing fans. Not being mean, but this was done by ABC/ESPN for the Hurricanes years back, when they had the NHL package.

    • Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

      I guess we should be happy. If they still controlled (I believe they are minority owners now… 2% or so) the casino you KNOW they would have wanted to call the team the LV Palms.

  6. It’s not the first time the Maloofs have dipped their toes into the NHL, although it’s the first time they actually (reportedly) put their money where their mouths are. They were in the works to purchase the Lightning from the Yakus- err, I mean, a Japanese businessman, going so far as to sit in on the draft, making decisions(!), only to back out completely within days.

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