The NHL appears ready to expand for the first time since 2000, with Las Vegas set to get a team to begin play as early as 2017-18. As expected Quebec, the other candidate city in this round of expansion, will have to wait for now.
The Associated Press is reporting a decision -- one many saw coming, and even commissioner Gary Bettman said he expected it would be leaked -- that would be announced at the June 22 board of governors meeting before the annual NHL awards in the city of sin.
Las Vegas' entrance would be pending them footing the $500 million expansion fee, but their prospective owner Bill Foley has long been prepared for that, as well as bringing 13,000 season ticket pledges for a brand-spanking new arena in the city's heart.
- Foley, a West Point grad, is believed to want to pick a team name around that theme and Vegas. (His companies are called "Black Knight" this and that, so...) The league and marketing partners may have some say there.
- 2017-18 is the earliest a team would begin and probably suits Foley and the NHL's timeline, but that's to be determined.
- The NHL wants any expansion team to be competitive, so the expansion draft rules will be tougher than they were in the past, and teams may only have a year and a half to prepare their rosters to game it. That could see some interesting contract swaps, callups and other maneuvers next season as teams try to create candidates to be claimed.
- Leagues used to semi-dream of Vegas but were worried about the gambling association. Nobody gambles on the NHL though (alright, not exactly true) and leagues have become much better about nakedly taking the mighty dollar anyway.
- Another block to Vegas in the past was that it's not that big of a city. That's also changed, however, as the region has grown to well over 2 million people.
- With talk of Vegas over the last year, one of the ideas was that they might have more matinee games since so many people work weekend evenings serving the soul-less tourists who flock to town to consummate gambling dreams and fantasies of sexual exploits that go horribly, penicillin-worthily wrong.
The team would play in the Western Conference, obviously, adding one more party-friendly leg to the Islanders' twice-annual swings out West.
So...LHH meetup in Vegas, anyone?