NHL admits Las Vegas expansion possible, meets with owner group

NHL admits Las Vegas expansion possible, meets with owner group

The NHL has been reluctant to put its cards on the table about potential expansion. But when it comes to Las Vegas, that’s only a matter of time.

Michael Russo of the Star Tribune finally called NHL deputy commission Bill Daly’s bluff, and Daly said he not only met with a potential ownership group last weekend in Las Vegas but also toured the construction site for the new $350 million arena being built by MGM Resorts.

A few key thoughts from Daly on Las Vegas expansion:

1. He feels Vegas can “support a professional sports franchise” if the locals can create a strong ticket base. Daly said the demographics are good to that end, but the critical thing for the franchise would be not to rely on tourists, snow birds and the casinos to gobble up tickets on a regular basis: “You can’t depend on tourists to fill your building every night — even rich ones. You really need a local fan base.”

Guess the lessons have been learned from South Florida …

2. Daly admits that the start time for games could be an issue. “It’s a nighttime city, so it would have to be uniquely scheduled in terms of focusing maybe on industry nights as opposed to your typical Thursday-Saturday nights where everybody would be working.”

Keep in mind that the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL used to play every Sunday game in the afternoon.

3. If the NHL comes to Vegas, the League might ask that the team not have its games available for wagering in the city’s sports books. The same courtesy was granted to UNLV years ago; there are also smaller “conflict of interest” exceptions, like not being able to wager on the Sacramento Kings at the Palms due to the Maloofs’ ownership of both.

“It’s really more a visceral rationale than anything else,” Daly said told Russo. “You don’t want guys in the stands with bet tickets in their hands and the only reason they’re watching the game is so they can cash in on a bet afterwards. That’s not an environment you want to foster or create as a professional sports league.”

4. Finally, kudos to Daly for finally admitting that the current mis-alignment - 16 in the East, 14 in the West - will influence expansion. “It would have to take place in the West before it would take place in the East because you can’t get further misaligned.” Gary Bettman had previously danced around the alignment as an influence.