Could the National Hockey League be gambling on a team in Las Vegas?
“Sources close to the situation have indicated Las Vegas is a done deal, the only thing to be determined being which owner will be entitled to proclaim that he brought the first major league sports franchise to Sin City.”
Las Vegas would also be just the tip of the iceberg as the league has also been rumored to be adding teams in places like Seattle, Quebec City and a second Toronto team. (Maybe in Markham, Ontario or somewhere like Mississauga or along the Niagara region.)
The expansions to Vegas would be the first team for the city in the major four professional sports leagues. (The city is home to the East Coast Hockey League’s Las Vegas Wranglers, but the club has suspended operations for the 2014-15 season and an NHL team there would most certainly kill it.)
If the expansion plans do go through, the team could be ready for the 2017-18 season.
Random fact: It was Las Vegas that actually hosted the first NHL game outdoors when it hosted the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers in the 1991 preseason at Caesar’s Palace.
Also, the NHL has held their annual awards the last few years in Vegas.
I know Seattle fans are nervous about the rumors because the number of times they’ve just missed out on NBA and NHL teams. (The city would’ve probably gotten the Arizona Coyotes had the Glendale City Council not approved a new lease.) Commissioner Gary Bettman also said the arena situation in the city is "very unsettled." However, the report gives Seattle hope that it will be a part of the league despite not having a new barn.
(I talked about this in my first article for the Fan Vs. Fan Network.)
Quebec City and Toronto (Markham) were also named in the report as expansion landing spots. Quebec City previously had the Nordiques that played in the awful Colisée de Québec. While people like to get on the city for already losing the Nords, the city will have state-of-the-art arenas in building the Quebecor Arena.The prospective ownership group of the Quebec team is also a lot more stable than the one that sold the team to Denver to become the Avalanche.
Markham has been looking at the league for years, there's a slim chance they go there as there has been opposition to a new arena. It would likely go to Hamilton or somewhere else.
My take on all of this is that two Western teams make sense because it gives the league a nice, even number of 32 with eight teams in four divisions. Anything beyond that is silly as the league will really get watered down. Expand to Seattle because it screams a great hockey town.
I don’t think Vegas would be my first choice for the second Western spot. If anything, I’d be more in favor of Portland or Kansas City getting an NHL team. KC would be a great fit in the Central Division and have a natural rivalry with Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, etc. Portland would make sense because it would be a great natural rival to Vancouver and the new Seattle team.
Quebec City… I do think you deserve a team. However, I think there will be one waiting for when one of the Southern teams can’t hack it. (Florida Panthers, anyone?) I think the fan base is there, and the natural rivalry with Montreal and Ottawa would work.
As for a second Toronto team, I’m still on the fence. Could it probably work? Sure, but I think the Sabres and Maple Leafs would put up such a big fight that it would take forever for anything to get done. Plus, I think other cities need a shot first before you put a second team in that area.
Dan Mount is the editor of Hockey Sentinel and also covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for NYSportScene.com. He can be found on Twitter @DanMountSports.