Golden Knights owner on televised expansion draft; protection lists; Raiders' Vegas move (Q&A)

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Vegas Golden Knights team owner Bill Foley speaks during the Las Vegas NHL team name Unveiling ceremony on November 22, 2016, at The Park at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Getty Images)
Vegas Golden Knights team owner Bill Foley speaks during the Las Vegas NHL team name Unveiling ceremony on November 22, 2016, at The Park at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Getty Images)

Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley spoke with a high level of enthusiasm when asked about the process of his organization announcing its expansion draft picks in late June.

This is because Foley and the NHL are working to make sure that the event where the Golden Knights are divulged will pop as much as possible. Foley said the Golden Knights will likely be released in a combined nationally televised show that could be in the same location as the NHL awards.

Recently the NHL told Puck Daddy that the event would be televised, but it was unclear if it would be on national television. Also it was uncertain if both events would take place in the same location – though it was believed they would be in the same general area.

“We have 88 days until the expansion draft and to do our announcement, that’s going to be a gigantic event for us in Las Vegas at (T-Mobile Arena). We’re going to try to fill the arena to the extent we can fill every seat so people can really see what’s going on with the expansion draft,” Foley said in a phone interview. “We’re going to be integrated into the NHL awards ceremony so it’s going to be on live national TV. It’s going to be on NBC Sports Network and it’s going to be on Rogers. So they’re going to do an NHL award and then they’re going to cut back to us and we’re going to announce a couple of expansion drafts and have some jumbotron video of the guys we’re drafting.”

Foley didn’t know with 100 percent certainty if both events would indeed take place in the same location but thought it would be neat if they occurred in T-Mobile Arena.

“If that were the case in effect they would have like two stages and one would be announcing expansion draft picks and interviewing players and so on,” Foley said. “The other would be the awards piece that would cut back and forth is what the idea is so over the two-plus hour timeframe of the NHL expansion draft event, so if it’s two and a half hours we get our hour and ten minutes.”

The Golden Knights will receive the lists of protected players by 5 p.m. on June 17, then Vegas will submit their expansion draft selections by 5 p.m. eastern on June 20. The picks will then be made public on June 21. Vegas will begin play as the NHL’s 31st franchise in 2017-18.

Really a lot of Foley’s time revolves around planning for these three days, the PR element of the event and also how to give general manager George McPhee the proper tools to pick the right types of players.

Still, there’s more to the current state of the Golden Knights than just the expansion draft and Foley is doing his best to stay on top of all business matters. On Monday, the NFL announced it approved relocation for the Oakland Raiders to start play in Las Vegas by 2019, which could impact the Golden Knights and create some adjustments as they try to gain some local traction.

Also, there’s still the issue of the trademark for their team name and logo being denied because The College of Saint Rose had the same name and a similar look.

We spoke with Foley about the expansion draft, his thoughts on whether the NHL should make protected lists public, the Raiders and whether there was any sort of update on the trademark issue with his team’s name. 

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Q: What’s it like now to just be waiting on everything? You’re getting so close. 

FOLEY: We’re all working very hard on a lot of different fronts and one of the things we talk about in our business meeting every Tuesday is what’s top in mind for each one of us and all of us have something that is top of mind, something to get accomplished. We don’t have much time. We have 88 days until the expansion draft and to do our announcement, that’s going to be a gigantic event for us in Las Vegas (T-Mobile Arena). We’re going to try to fill the arena to the extent we can fill every seat so people can really see what’s going on with the expansion draft. We’re probably going to be integrated into the NHL awards ceremony so it’s going to be on live national TV. It’s going to be on NBC Sports Network and it’s going to be on Rogers. So they’re going to do an NHL award and then they’re going to cut back to us and we’re going to announce a couple of expansion drafts picks and have some jumbotron video of the guys we’re drafting. So we’ve got 88 days to get that done and keep on the hockey side – we have another whole set of amateur mock drafts coming up in the middle of May, and another set of mock drafts on the pro side around May 10, so that’s about eight days covered in mock drafts. Then on June 14, everyone comes back in and we do more mock drafting and then we get the list on June 17th. It’s going to be hectic. It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be really hectic trying to figure everything out during that three-day expansion draft period.

So just to make sure in regards to the expansion draft, they’re doing to basically bundle the awards and the draft in the same general location or in the same building?

Ours is at T-Mobile. I believe (the NHL) is trying to work out the economics on the awards show, whether they can be at T-Mobile and do the production. If that were the case in effect they would have two stages and one would be announcing expansion draft picks and interviewing players and so on. The other would be the awards piece that would cut back and forth is what the idea is so over the two or two-and-a-half hour timeframe of the NHL awards/expansion draft event, so if it’s two and a half hours and we get our hour and ten minutes.

Could you imagine if a guy wins an award and then he gets announced that you guys picked him in the draft?

(Laughs) I think those guys are all protected.

Then they would have to walk across from one stage to the other one, which would be great. We’re trying to figure out how we get some of the players that we’re going to draft to the event because we believe there are going to be some transactions that are going to be made prior to the announcement or when we send to the league our list of 30 players we’re drafting. We’re going to have some deals done with various teams prior to that and they’re going to be deals that involve pretty good players. We’re trying to figure out how we get six-to-eight players to the event so we can introduce them and they can put a jersey on, walk up and put the new jersey on, have some video of what they’re doing, ask them a couple of questions and then move onto the next pick. We’re excited about this. We think it’s going to be really fun.

What was it like having George at the recent general managers meetings? It must have been really good for you guys to finally have a voice at a big league gathering.

About a week ago I got his notes from the GMs meeting and kind of went through everything. I talk to George – I talk to him every other day, asking him what’s going on, who he’s talking to, what’s happening, what he’s thinking, who he’s watching and that kind of stuff. What it did more than anything else, it got George back in the mix so he got to go there and see the guys he had been around for a long time from other teams and reestablish his presence and the fact that he’s now a general manager again and with a team that a lot of people are going to want to talk to about with various transactions.

There was a lot of talk coming out of those meetings about whether teams’ protected lists should be made public. What do you think? Should they be made public?

I’d rather not have them be public. I’d rather ‘we know what each team has left unprotected and we make our picks and it’s a big surprise.’

I think there’s going to be a lot of leaks though. I found one thing about the NHL that … everyone talks. So what we do is we don’t tell anybody anything.

Why do you think it’s better this way? 

I think the impact of us announcing the people we pick from our expansion draft picks – particularly if the list of unprotected people is not made public is more dramatic, it’ll be more of a surprise.

So what is your take on the Raiders coming to Las Vegas? I read your statement welcoming the team, but also saw your comments not seeming too pleased about the use of public funds for the stadium.

Well, it’s not something I can control. If I could have controlled it I probably would have said, ‘let’s not have the Raiders come to Las Vegas’ because it’s competition to our team.

We do have a different fanbase and we have a different TV type deal and a different radio type deal. I don’t even believe on the sponsorships if someone is going to be a sponsor of the Raiders that’s a local sponsor, we believe they’ll also be a sponsor of our team or they already are a sponsor of our team and will be a sponsor of the Raiders. Our president Kerry Bubolz had direct knowledge of this from his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the same with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Lightning where our chief revenue officer just came from. He came from the Buccaneers. His point was of their 20 top sponsors, 15 sponsored multiple teams because once they got behind sports in a community, they wanted to make sure they had themselves covered behind every sport. I just don’t think it’s going to be an issue for us in terms of revenue and in terms of distraction. We have a different fanbase. Really our fanbase is completely different from an NFL fanbase.

Hockey fans are avid and you can have avid football fans but hockey fans really are avid and they want to see the game in person and they want to go to the game where with football, you can kind of just as easily watch it on TV and kind of get better viewing lines.

Oakland Raiders fan Matt Gutierrez of Nevada waves a Raiders flag in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign after National Football League owners voted 31-1 to approve the team’s application to relocate to Las Vegas during their annual meeting on March 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders are expected to begin play no later than 2020 in a planned 65,000-seat domed stadium to be built in Las Vegas at a cost of about USD 1.9 billion. (Getty Images)
Oakland Raiders fan Matt Gutierrez of Nevada waves a Raiders flag in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign after National Football League owners voted 31-1 to approve the team’s application to relocate to Las Vegas during their annual meeting on March 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders are expected to begin play no later than 2020 in a planned 65,000-seat domed stadium to be built in Las Vegas at a cost of about USD 1.9 billion. (Getty Images)

You’re also going to have a two-year head start on them, which I’d imagine should help you guys to lay some groundwork before they arrive.

If they make 2020, that’s probably realistic. I doubt they make 2019 so 2020 at that point, we’ll be in our fourth season by 2020 so I think … and by 2020 if Las Vegas continues to grow at the rate of 50,000 people per-year so that’s another 200,000 people. I think there’s going to be plenty for everybody.

I saw your comment about the $750 million of public funding going into the Raiders’ stadium and how it could be invested locally rather than into a sporting venue – you do realize every local government where pro sports teams are located will now want you as an owner after reading that. 

(Laughs) They can’t get it anywhere except in Las Vegas. We got it in Las Vegas because we got 43 million people per-year coming through and they raised the bed tax or the resort tax. They kind of could do it and it didn’t really tax locals but if we had $750 million to spend every year I thought we could have brilliant, awesome, fire and police (departments) and a great group of teachers. A great group of teachers. We already do but if they got paid a little more money or we could have an assistant in every class and have more extracurricular activities it would be good. But that’s not in my control, I’m not a politician.

Is there any update on the trademark situation with your name?

We’ve made contact with the college of Saint Rose and (legal counsel) Peter Sadowski really has the details. I haven’t followed up with him in 30 days or so. We’re filing our appeal before the trademark office. The college of Saint Rose doesn’t have a hockey team. We thought the only issue might have been Clarkson College, which does have a Division I hockey team. We got their permission to co-use the name Golden Knights before we released the name. We know it’s going to work out. We know it’s not going to be a big deal. The college of Saint Rose – they’re going to be reasonable.

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You’ve also been working on the jersey release. What can you say about it and how it will look? 

Well we’ve got our jersey designed. It’s now going into production. We’re probably going to not release our jersey until the day of the expansion draft. The NHL is having an event in New York where they’re showing all the new jerseys. We believe we’re going to defer from that and we will release our jersey the day of he expansion draft on national television. It’s the black, gold and gray colors with some red accents. The red accent represents the red rocks and the gold represents the gold producing state. We have the storm gray that we’ve released on some of our t-shirts and sweatshirts and so that represents ‘strength’ and ‘sticking to the program.’ The black really represents ‘dedication and fortitude.’ We have a whole talking point on our jersey and what each color represents and what it means and what the logo means. We’re excited, but there’s so much to do. We’re busy every day and then I still have a day job I’m working on.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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