LAS VEGAS – There's some mystery, allure and excitement from NHL players about how a potential new Las Vegas team may work.
“It’s the entertainment capital of the world,” said San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns. “You look around the buildings and the restaurants and driving around it’s a lot of people everyone’s looking to have a good time. Hockey’s a good time. Should be a good fit.”
With the league's Board of Governors expected to vote on expansion into this market on Wednesday, much of the chatter Tuesday – during NHL Awards media availability – had less to do with the trophies to be given out Wednesday evening's show.
It mostly had to do with the buzz of a new team coming into the NHL in a market that’s never had a major professional sport.
This was the second straight year expansion into Vegas dominated the chatter around the awards, but this year there was more legitimacy to it because it's so close to becoming a reality. Last season the league announced it would start the exapnsion process. This year may finish it with Vegas becoming the NHL's 31st franchise.
Expansion news alters any league’s landscape, but Las Vegas makes a bigger splash. It’s a gambling mecca. It has multiple entertainment options. Its nickname is Sin City. The Las Vegas strip is one of the most discernable skylines in the world.
We asked several players what immediately came to mind when they heard “Las Vegas,” and follow-ups on the distractions this city could provide.
“Exciting. This is a great city, an exciting city. If you’re coming here for a visit or a hockey game it’s fun to be a part of.”
Will it be hard to play with all the nightlife distractions?
“We’re here to do a job and that’s to win a hockey game. We’re all adults, we’re all professionals and there’s one task. It’s not to come in here and lose focus. It’s to come in here and win a hockey game.”
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
“Hockey … no I think it’s just obviously it’s a city that’s full of diversity and activities and things to do and a crazy city if you want to put it that way. I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s going to work out.”
Are you worried about distractions?
“I think we’re looking forward to it to see how everything unfolds. It’s definitely a fun city and there’s lots to do, but distraction is part of the city so you have to be focused and smart, but I’ve talked to a few employees and local people yesterday and they seem very excited about having a team here. It’s their first professional team so by us getting in first may be a smart move and hopefully it is.”
Matt Martin, New York Islanders
“I think of Vegas as a very fun place. It’s lively. It’s a lot like New York in a lot of ways where there’s always something going on. There’s always a buzz around. I’ve never been here in the winter, but it’s a fun place to come to. Everyone talks about the nightlife and cool parties, but there are a lot of great shows, a lot of great restaurants – like Britney Spears, which we attended the other day. There’s a lot of great things to do and it’s not all partying, it’s not all – I think every time you think of Vegas you think of bachelor parties and partying all night but it’s not the case. There’s great things to do in the city and I think it’s a great thing for the NHL to be a part of."
There’s always talk of casinos here and worries with pro athletes, but really there are gambling location on a lot of NHL road trips, right?
“If you want to find trouble you can find it anywhere. If you want to party and drink and have a good time you can do it anywhere. I think guys in this league are professional. They understand we have a job to do on the ice. It’s not going to be party central every time we come here. There’s a lot of things we can do that don’t involve going out every night. There’s Celine Dion, there’s Broadway shows. I’m not concerned for player in this league finding trouble.”
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Gambling. I guess that’s the first word I guess. It’s a different city that’s for sure. You walk around the huge hotels and sounds everywhere. There’s always something going on no matter what time it is.”
“New York is close but it’s not the same type of vibe I think. It’s just basically Times Square. That’s the only part that’s similar.”
Is all the gambling around you worrisome?
“It’s in your face all the time. I’m not a huge gambler. I like playing here and there for fun. I don’t get to a point where it starts to take control. That’s where you can get in trouble quick. Especially if you play here. I’d need to live a little further away.”
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
“Usually I would probably think of our annual trip with our team. We come here for a couple of days during the season. It’s a way to get away from the game for a couple of nights and a couple of days. Kind of enjoy some team bonding, probably the first thing I think of.”
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
“Gambling? I don’t know. Casinos?”
“There’s distractions in every city and in Nashville there’s distractions for the opposing teams. But if you go to Dallas, LA, you go to all these other cities. There’s distractions anywhere you go. Guys are professionals and I don’t think it’s going to be any different or be pulling guys any harder in any other city.”
“It’s a hard game now. You can’t do anything that’s going to cost your or cost your teammates. You see how close it is – one point could mean the matter of the playoffs. I don’t think players are going to put that in jeopardy.”
Is anyone on the Preds a fan of Celine Dion or Britney Spears?
“I’m sure we do, but I don’t think they’re going to admit it.”
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