The Las Vegas ticket drive reportedly passed the 10,000 mark in late March, collected from individual fans in the market rather than corporations and casinos.
This was good news for potential NHL franchise owner Bill Foley and his supporters, and good news for those in the NHL who want the Vegas initiative to move forward.
You can count commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly among those advocates. At the IMG World Congress of Sports in Los Angeles this week, Daly put over the Vegas ticket drive as validation of that market’s viability.
"The response in Las Vegas has been very impressive and certainly suggests that there is an ability to support a professional sports franchise and particularly an NHL franchise at this point in time," Daly said while speaking on a panel with other sports business insiders. "We have a Board of Governors meeting coming up in June. We'll obviously report on the results of the Las Vegas ticket drive and we'll have a discussion with our ownership as to whether they want to entertain the concept of expansion; they haven't made that decision yet. And if they want to entertain the concept of expansion, how they want to do it."
But again, there isn’t unanimous opinion among those in the NHL that Vegas is a good bet for hockey.
Calgary Flames President Brian Burke, who has worked in the NHL front office, spoke at the Congress and sounded a more cautionary note:
"There's a reason for that," Burke said of the other leagues not being there. "No one's believed in the financial base of the market, and no one's believed that transitory people become fans and buy tickets. This is a way to test-drive the market without committing to it, so I think it's a sensible approach. I'm not sure if it works or not, but fortunately that's way above my pay grade. I would like another team in the West, I can tell you that."
Daly also reiterated that Vegas would be an expansion team and not a relocated team; which goes without saying, because the last thing the NHL wants is to move a struggling franchise to Vegas and have it flop there and then move it again.
Which is why Quebec is going to remain your back-pocket relocation option…
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