Ice Time: What to know about Vegas’ potential new NHL franchise

Photo: Jon Estrada

Why hockey? Put simply, the NHL seems willing to take a chance on Vegas and prospective billionaire owner Bill Foley believes in us. Other major professional sports leagues and owners have flirted with bringing a team to Las Vegas, but none have seemed as serious. MGM and AEG collaborated to build T-Mobile Arena, bringing online a facility well-equipped to house a hockey team. All past discussions on sports coming to town have purely involved hypotheticals, in terms of where they would play.

When will we know if Vegas gets a team? Mid-June is the new time to watch. That’s when the NHL is rumored to be announcing expansion plans, concurrent to hosting its postseason awards show at a to-be-determined date and local venue. But some fans are skeptical they’ll receive confirmation then. Last September’s owners meetings and January’s All-Star Game were previously linked as the targets for an announcement, but passed without significant updates.

When would it start playing? Tentatively plan for the puck to drop during the second week of October 2017. That’s traditionally when the NHL season begins, and Las Vegas looks poised to join for the 2017-2018 season.

How would hockey sell here? That remains a significant unknown, though a season-ticket drive held last year exceeded expectations. Foley’s team took in 14,000 season-ticket deposits—obliterating a goal of 10,000—and sold out luxury suites. Long-term local support is a concern, especially if the team struggles on the ice as expansion franchises tend to, but there’s little doubt Las Vegas would be a popular destination for traveling opposing fanbases.

How would NHL betting be affected? The league hasn’t commented, but bookmakers don’t foresee any effect, arguing that casinos have the same ultimate interest as the NHL in maintaining the game’s integrity. That being said, don’t expect the team’s games to be lined at MGM properties given the company’s stake in the arena.

What should the team be called? Black Knights is the odds-on favorite, since it’s the stated preference of Foley, who graduated from West Point in 1967. (He has also mentioned a potential vote among season-ticket holders.) Among possibilities heard mentioned in various places, my vote would go to the Rat Pack, the Dice on Ice or the Scorpions.

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