LAS VEGAS – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave a one-word answer on whether he was worried if the NFL could move into the Las Vegas market and steal some of the thunder of the NHL’s expansion for 2017-18.
“No,” Bettman said.
Much of the NHL’s success on the Las Vegas market is predicated on the fact that the league will be the only major pro game in town. But if the Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas – which has been rumored recently – would that damage the league’s business model in Sin City?
“I’m focused on a hockey team in Las Vegas, which we think will do extraordinarily well,” Bettman later added when further pressed on the issue.
On June 25, 1997 the NHL’s Board of Governors granted Nashville an NHL franchise. Around that same time the Houston Oilers started the process of moving to Middle Tennessee.
This slowed the momentum of the Predators locally for several years.
“If we had come solely like we were supposed to come to Nashville and be the only thing it would have been like San Jose. The Sharks are the only thing there. I think it would have galvanized really quickly in Nashville,” former Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “We went from being, 'Hey, we got a professional team' to 'Now we've got two.' We went from being the talk of the town to now the Titans were the talk of the town, and that did hurt.”
Las Vegas owner Bill Foley was open to an NFL team coming to Las Vegas, which has over 2 million people, and said he would support the franchise but noted how he didn’t believe his team would have to compete with the NFL in regards to the sports entertainment dollar in Las Vegas.
“I think the NFL would be great here. I’ll be a season ticket holder,” he said. “They’re a different fanbase than we have and I don’t believe they’ll have any impact on us. On sponsorships we have a head start. We’re here. We’re going.”
Is Vegas big enough to go from no professional teams to an NHL team and an NFL team?
The NFL’s strict anti-gambling stance make this a difficult task, but if the Raiders figure out a way, the Las Vegas an NHL team may have to fight harder for dollars.
“First it is unlikely the Chargers are the Raiders will relocate to Vegas, but if they did the NFL would consume almost all of the corporate fan base and the NHL team would be relegated to being a stepchild,” Vanderbilt University economics professor John Vrooman said. “This happened in Nashville with the Preds and then the Titans, but again Nashville has economic depth and Vegas is a sham market overly dependent on the gaming and tourism industry.”
Ultimately the NHL looks at the NFL as a hypothetical and says they won’t worry about it at this present juncture.
“The league has never been stronger form an ownership standpoint, viewing on all platforms, attendance, revenues have never been higher,” Bettman said.
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