NHL expansion is certainly on the forefront right coming off the wake of the board of governors meeting. Two main facets the board of governors have approved are being eaten up and spit out by the media, but not the kind of bad spitting out you indulge in when your food tastes awful, but the kind of spitting out you do when you're in pure amazement and shock. The two main takeaways from the Board of Governors are three on three overtime administered as of the 2015/2016 National Hockey League season, and more importantly from a league sustainability point of view, the higher ups agreed to at the very least, look into the plausibility into expansion. Great news for the league and great news for markets that are thirsty, to the point of dehydrated for an expansion organization.
Essentially to break this down, the league will explore three markets in particular, that being the metropolis' of Seattle, Quebec City, and tourism driven Las Vegas. From all media outlets it appears that Las Vegas is furthest along in this process, although the validity of Quebec City being farther along is certainly up for debate. Las Vegas has already surpassed a season ticket drive instilled by the league to ensure that their is enough interest from the corporate sponsors/residents alike. The initial support is clearly there for Vegas, but because Vegas is very tourism driven, can the outpouring of support be sustained to enthrust a permanent franchise? I examine.
Las Vegas has everything a player would want, post-game and off season entertainment come to mind along with the year long weather that Nevada has to offer. Having never been to Vegas, I can't speak to how hockey is truly perceived, but if you judge it solely on such events as the 2015 NHL awards which took place this Wednesday evening, the league may salivating on the marketing opportunities. It's Las Vegas, the players would naturally be looked after, but the more important question is, can and will the fans step up and be able to turn this franchise into the modern day Minnesota Wild, and not a now defunct Atlanta Thrashers?
My biggest concern, and the deeper you examine this issue, the more concerns I'm sure would pop out of my head, is, as evidenced in the opening paragraph is long-term sustainability. Vegas is an intriguing market in the sense that partnerships with the casinos would bring new resources that frankly other teams around the globe would dream of having. Casinos, who would drive a good portion if not all the sponsorship dollars, because if I'm not mistaken the prospective owner is affiliated with a casino which should be to surprise to anyone as it would be like the FIFA not being run by career criminals, the two just go hand in hand with each other. Tourists flood this gambling community on a daily basis which is why any sporting team in Vegas would create great walk-up gate revenue, but does not anyone else, and I'm sure Gary Bettman has asked this question to himself thousands of times, think that this city would have an awfully difficult time having a consistent season ticket holder base? Yes, I'm fully aware that they breezed through Bettman's season ticket initiative, but hype can drive citizens to endeavor in things that they otherwise wouldn't and won't even blink of the idea at having to renew their season tickets during year three/four/five of the franchise. The best comparable would be if my beautiful city of Regina, Saskatchewan were rewarded with the honour of George Strait gracing his presence in the Queen City. The first show would undoubtedly be a massive hit, the second show, similar results surely, but for the third and fourth shows etc etc, the same kind of buzz may not exist. We live in a world of what can you do for me now, not what can you do for me in a few years. Any city that initially gets an NHL team will of course have immediate positive reaction, heck even a locale like Birmingham,Alabama would hoot for a team in the deep south, but geographically that's just not a viable option, and certainly when surveying state interests, a vast majority might confuse hockey and curling..."what's ice?", they may suffice.
My other concern only in the realm of making sure the team in Vegas is taking seriously is to ensure that the team and the ownership doesn't give off any gimmicky vibes. Being a Canadian, we don't have to think too far away to remember the disastrous experimentation that was the American invasion in the Canadian Football League. I personally was a fan, my most memorable Rider game was when, back around 1997, Rider great Don Narcisse broke the then at the time reception record and who were they playing you ask...that's right, the at the time Damon Allen led Memphis Mad Dogs. As much as I enjoyed seeing these different American franchises invade Regina, the adult in me now realizes that financially it virtually destroyed the Canadian Football League. Vegas particularly couldn't even find anthem singers who knew the Canadian national anthem, now one would expect Vice President Bill Daly would make sure no similar antics are pulled this time around because we all suffice this would be a P.R nightmare. Reportedly, the team would be called the Las Vegas Black Aces, which to use card terminology is very applicable considering the market that we are discussing.
Will Las Vegas have a National Hockey League franchise by say,2018-2019? If you believe what you're hearing from the Sportsnet and TSN's of the world, it seems likely. The right choice for expansion? Up for debate, but one can't fault the league for attempting to get creative and do all it can to make hockey strive south of the border, no matter how much controversy and criticism it's receiving.