Las Vegas Officially Joins the NHL Family

Sep 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr appear on stage together during a press conference and media event for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr appear on stage together during a press conference and media event for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Well, it’s official. The National Hockey League (and the Board of Governors insatiable need for more money) has decided to award an expansion team to the city of Las Vegas. The Board believes that after wasting $600 million dollars of money to keep the Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes alive, the best thing to do is to take another run at hockey in 110 degree weather.

Bill Foley was remarkably happy for a man who just picked up a half a billion dollar bar tab.

“This is Las Vegas’ team,” said Foley about the Vegas addition. “We have 2.2 or 2.3 million local residents and we sold 14,000 season tickets with season-ticket deposits when we didn’t have a team and we didn’t have an arena. That is the kind of level of dedication that the people of Las Vegas have shown in support of NHL hockey. It went a long way for us to making progress with the NHL.

“Las Vegas is hockey-ready. We’re convinced of it. We know it.”

Congratulations to the City of Las Vegas, Bill Foley, and all the area casinos that helped buy up a fair portion of the 14,000 deposits on season tickets.

If you’ve read my articles over the last year, you know I’m not a fan of more hockey in the desert. But I’m willing to admit I could be wrong here. If the Black Knights are playoff contenders and are making money at the end of the 2022-23 season (and I’m alive to see it), I will respectfully write my mea maxima culpa article on the subject. I actually hope that the Las Vegas franchise isn’t a complete waste of money, and the team can be a credible success in the Western Conference.

In the midst of all the Vegas hoopla, it was announced that the Board of Governors (after patting themselves on the back for their unanimous vote on sharing the $500 million dollar entry fee) chose to defer the discussion of giving an expansion team to the city that is far more deserving, Quebec City.

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“There is no doubt as to the passion for hockey, particularly NHL hockey, in Quebec City,” said Bettman in the defense of the Board’s decision.  “There is no doubt as to the suitability of Videotron Centre as a home arena for a team. And there is no doubt regarding the ownership credentials or the eagerness to own an NHL team of Quebecor, which has been an outstanding league partner. These components, the ones within the control of the Quebec City applicant, are first-rate. The decision to defer, however, were based on elements over which Quebec City and the Quebec City group had no control whatsoever.”

Bettman also mentioned that there was no talk about moving a potentially failing team (see above Coyotes) to Quebec City.

So, what killed the Quebec City bid?

Had Quebec City been given the nod to be the 32nd NHL team, problems would have arisen almost immediately.  The league would have to redraw the Western-Eastern border again, and that would certainly not sit well for certain teams on the bubble. I’m sure the Detroit Red Wings would have rioted over the prospect of moving back to the Western Conference.

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The League also saw difficulty in bringing two new teams in at the same time. While this reason seems fishy to me (Columbus and Minnesota joined the league in 2000 without any disasters occurring), a lot of the owners might have been worried about being unable to protect players from multiple teams at the expansion draft. (Sure, the Bruins would be happy to give up either Kevan Miller or Adam McQuaid, but they might balk at being forced to give up both.)

Finally, the biggest reason was money. The Canadian dollar has been struggling as of late(78 cents to $1 U.S. dollar). The league wanted to make sure a team would be placed where the region around it was more financially stable.

So, let’s catch up. After praising the ownership group and finding no serious fault in the economic strength of that group, the NHL Board of Governors chose to ignore the better candidate and are (figuratively and literally) taking a roll of the dice on more hockey in the desert.

Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs still heads the Board of Governors.

It’s unfortunate the Board could not see all that Quebec City has to offer. They seemed to ignore the passion and the history of the city.  Despite being disappointed in the league’s decision the Quebec City team remains hopeful.

“What we have to understand from the words, or being on hold, is that we’ll keep a discussion with the NHL,” said Pierre Dion, Quebecor’s CEO and president. “We’re very close to them, we have a great relationship with them, so we’ll keep talking. That’s how we have to interpret the ‘deferred’ and ‘on hold.'”