NHL expansion is reportedly coming to Las Vegas.
On Tuesday night Sin Bin Vegas cited sources "with extensive knowledge of the organization and the expansion process" saying that the NHL’s executive committee "formulated a positive recommendation for expansion" to Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season. The executive committee met Tuesday in New York City.
The next step in the process is for Mr. Foley to sign the expansion contract and send it, plus $500 million, back to the league. At that point, the 30 owners will vote at the Board of Governors meeting to accept the expansion contract and expand the league to 31.
The NHL's Board of Governors will meet on June 22 in Las Vegas in advance of the NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino where a decision is expected to be finalized. The 'Mr. Foley' referenced in the story is Bill Foley -- the force behind the Vegas bid.
Both Las Vegas and Quebec City are the two teams in this expansion process for the league. Both submitted official bids last July. The expansion fee is $500 million per-team.
There has yet to be an official expansion recommendation announcement by the NHL.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there would not be any announcements out of the executive committee meeting, in an email Tuesday afternoon to Puck Daddy.
Foley, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he hadn’t heard from the NHL as of Tuesday afternoon.
“I wasn’t there,” he said. “I wasn’t invited to the meeting. Nobody has said anything to me.”
Also according to the Review-Journal spokesman for Joe and Gavin Maloof, who are minority investors, said they hadn’t heard from the NHL as of Tuesday afternoon.
In a news conference before the start of the Stanley Cup Final, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league could expand by one or two teams, defer expansion or decide that the NHL will not expand.
Sin Bin said its sources were not informed if Quebec City would be part of expansion but was told, “it’s pretty much widely assumed we’re (Las Vegas) coming in alone.”
The league has seemed to be cooler on the Quebec City expansion bid and Quebecor chairman Brian Mulroney has continuously lowered expectations to his local fanbase. It’s believed the league would rather have Quebec City as a relocation spot in case a current franchise hits trouble.
Foley has gone through all the necessary requirements to have a team ready for 2017-18. He has a beautiful new arena in the heart of the strip that’s ready for action. He has plans for a practice facility in Summerlin. He hit 14,000 season ticket deposits.
A decision now would mean the NHL would beat the NFL as far as being the first major North American sport to announce its entrance into the Las Vegas market. The Oakland Raiders could start play there as early as 2017 but the Raiders and the NFL haven’t come to an agreement on whether the franchise will move to Las Vegas.
The NHL has been bullish on Las Vegas for quite some time, but has wanted to make sure the market could work from a hockey perspective, which is why the process has dragged out.
"I thought we'd have the team in no time," Foley said in a February story with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It just shows you how naive I was."
The league’s choice to expand into the Sun Belt in the 90s grew the game immensely in non-traditional areas. But several of those franchises have struggled financially at times in their histories.
The Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, the Nashville Predators were almost moved to Hamilton, Ontario before local ownership stepped up and purchased the team. The Florida Panthers were rumored to move for some time before Vincent Viola’s attempts to stabilize the team’s business.
The amount of time the NHL has taken with the expansion process has enabled the league to set the groundwork for an expansion draft and created a certain amount of buzz around a potential Las Vegas franchise.
According to the story by Sin Bin, there has not been any confirmation on a potential division for the Las Vegas team or an expansion draft date. It’s assumed the team would play in the Western Conference, which would give that group 15 teams. The Eastern Conference currently has 16 squads.
A franchise in Las Vegas would also create several new player jobs and new team jobs.
The last time new teams joined the league was 2000-01 when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild played their first seasons.
The NHL was a 21-team league from 1979-80 until 1991-92 when the San Jose Sharks joined and started an era of new teams in the 90s that included the Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild.
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