Will the NHL work in Las Vegas?

Boston Globe (12/9/07): Las Vegas remains hot on the rumor mill to land an NHL expansion franchise. According to one source long connected with league dealings, the fee will be some $300 million - more than three times the asking price prior to the CBA fixing player salaries. Hollywood’s Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of such hits as “Top Gun” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” is the rumored money man for a franchise that could open for business in 2009-10. Mr. Blockbuster, 62, was born in Michigan and went to high school in Detroit, which means no one will have to tutor him on a Gordie Howe hat trick. Los Angeles Kings billionaire Philip F. Anschutz already is fronting a state-of-the-art arena that will stand only a couple of blocks off the famed Strip.

This has been a vigorously-debated topic on hockey message boards this week.

Obviously LV has:
-a growing population
-tons of tourist and corporate $
-a world-class venue planned
-no other pro sports

…but doesn’t have:
-any hockey culture or infrastructure (cf. Phoenix, a failing NHL market)

So what do you think?

I don’t see it working for a couple of reasons:

  1. If you put the arena on the Strip, it will be just one more thing competing with dozens of others for tourist dollars- and if people don’t go to hockey games at home, they certainly aren’t going to go to one while on vacation.

  2. If you put the arena on the Strip, the locals probably won’t go. And you need local support to maintain a sports franchise.

  3. If you put the arena off the Strip, will it generate the necessary buzz to stay afloat? Will you be able to get ANY curiosity dollars from tourists or nearby residents? Will you have to de-sketchify the area as they are currently doing with my beloved Devils’ new rink?

  4. Fuck the league suits- wasn’t rampant overexpansion and reliance on the attendant fees the thing that fucked the owners to the point of locking out the players (and the monster contracts the fucking owners fucking created) in the fucking first place? Who does this benefit except the fucking owners? “Oooooh! Cost certainty! Now is the perfect time to repeat our mistakes only not have to share the bubble period with the players, so that when we finally DO manage to chew off the hand that feeds us, we’ll at least have a few years of personal solvency!” Did I mention fuck the league suits?
    I say it won’t work.

Well, Columbus has worked out quite well despite not having much of a history in hockey, mostly because it’s the only big-league team in town. So I suppose there’s a chance. What worries me is whether there are enough people making enough money to support an NHL team there.

Reading between the lines of HSHP’s post (especially #4), I gather he’s skeptical. I am, too. Expecting LV tourists to give much support is naive. LV is a huge city now and plausibly has enough residents to support this, but it’s new, different and not what most people there are used to. The price seems exorbitant. I wish them luck.

Interesting - I hadn’t thought of C-bus as a comparative.

Obviously San Jose and Dallas are other success stories to counter the Phoenix example. (Success has a lot to do with the team being good.)

Frankly, the idea is ludicrous. The likelihood of it working is next to zero, and the NHL is simply going for the initial cash grab.

  1. The population of Las Vegas may be growing, but it’s still not very big by the standards of major league cities.

  2. It’s growing by adding retirees and Hispanics, who, the last I checked, were not the NHL’s target market.

  3. Am I the only one who’s noticed that Southern NHL teams tend to struggle, even in larger markets than Vegas?

  4. I find the idea of the NHL being supported by Vegas tourists… well, it’s risible. Who goes to Vegas thinking “I sure would like to see some professional hockey”? Sports team success hinges on season ticket sales and luxury box sales; casual sales won’t support a franchise, and they’re not going to get a ton of walk ups in Vegas.

A Las Vegas team will be a spectacular failure, a fiasco of almost legendary proportions, and will be an excellent candidate to be the first time on the block when the NHL finally accepts the inevitable and moves a team into southern Ontario.

I’m not up on hockey or your region any more, but where in southern Ontario do you see an NHL franchise. Hamilton? The Niagara Region? Windsor? London? Kitchener-Waterloo?

You’re undoubtedly right about retirees, but I think the California teams have a pretty good reach into the Hispanic communities.

There’s a pretty decent team real close to Windsor already, I can’t see that as viable. Niagara is too close to Buffalo. I can see London or Hamilton.

I hope this goes nowhere. The problem with the NHL isn’t too few teams, it’s too many teams. 30 is ridiculous enough.

If top line entertainers like Dion can pack the tourists in day after day, I can see the possibility of success for an NHL team.

There are plenty of hockey fans living in the boonies amongst the tourists for whom going to see the nearest NHL game requires considerable time and money far in excess of the ticket price. The nightmare of driving around looking for parking can be daunting.

But if you and the wife fly to Vegas, you might not really care to see Celine with her unless she consents with you to walk right into to the arena.

I can see tourists scheduling their Vegas vacation to coincide with their favourite visiting team.

I’ve never seen the Seattle Mariners in Seattle (I live on Vancouver Island) but I did see them several years ago when I visited relatives in Dallas.

I really want to say no here simply because I think that hockey has already expanded far enough. That said, I can see ways where it might work. Bruckheimer, the rumored owner, has a load of money and may be an actual hockey fan from his years in Detroit. That means he’ll be willing to spend enough to put a good team on the ice. As was said upthread, a good team makes for a successful one. If it is a relocation of a struggling team (rumor has it that Tampa Bay and/or Atlanta may be up for sale), then you pick up a team with a good nucleus rather than trying to build through the expansion draft and a few lousy years to get the high draft picks. Add a couple of key free agents and you have a playoff if not cup caliber team. The league stays relatively healthy while properly expanding into a market without a professional team.

If the article is correct and it is an expansion team, it won’t be good for anyone but the owners, who will get a share of the expansion fee (and goody for them). The team will start off with the leagues castoffs and overpaid players left unprotected for the salary dump. They will flounder for a few years while fans and pundits alike decry the continuing watering down of the talent pool. A fan base already unfamiliar with the sport will not pay to see a losing team, and the few fans that wander in off the strip will not be enough to keep the team afloat. Best case scenario is that this expansion into disastrous waters will lead to the contraction of a few teams, increasing the overall quality of the remaining teams. More likely than not it would lead to more desperation rule changes to increase scoring (larger nets, even smaller pads, a triple score circle at center ice where goals scored from there count for three).

It doesn’t much matter; Hamilton or Mississauga would be the obvious choices, they being the largest cities available, but you could put a team betwene them in Oakville or Burlington, or in the K-W/Cambridge area. London is a bit far west.

You could just have another team right in Toronto, too.

I can’t see it working. It would be nice to see it as a tourist draw, but as has been said here on these boards many times, hockey in the US tends overall to take a back seat to NFL, MLB, NCAA, and NASCAR (in no particular order). Even tourists that do come from places where hockey is popular–say anywhere in Canada, or New York, Boston, or Chicago–aren’t going to Las Vegas to watch hockey. They’re going to gamble, or catch some shows, or play golf, or whatever. They can watch hockey at home; they’re likely in Vegas to do things they cannot do back home.

If the NHL must expand, then it should put a team someplace where it would be welcomed and supported from Day One: Hamilton. It has been wanting a team for years, and IIRC, has bid in expansions before. But Hamilton has always been denied a franchise because as I understand it, the NHL is worried about splitting the fan base between Toronto and Buffalo. I don’t think this will happen; Toronto is too traditional and Buffalo is too well established to be hurt by the presense of a third team in the area. Besides if places like Chicago and New York can host more than one baseball team, then southern Ontario/western New York should be able to handle more than one hockey team.

I think that expansion on any scale is a tremendously bad idea. In fact, I think that the NHL would be better served by contracting a few teams instead. At the very least, relocation is a better option than expansion is. As it stands now, pretty much every team in the league has one or two players who should just not be on an NHL roster. If there is another expansion - I think that the NHL would add 2 teams, not just one - then you start looking at teams with three players who don’t have NHL level skills, and the overall quality of the league drops.

As far as Hamilton goes, they are not going to get an NHL team with the Copps Coliseum as it is now. It may have been state of the art 20 odd years ago, but when compared to the venues built in the last 10 years, it just doesn’t measure up. Could the Southern Ontario market support another hockey team? I have no doubts that they could and the team would be a marketing hit, but no owner would leave revenue on the table to play in Hamilton, the way it is now.

I am from Michigan and grew up skating and playing hockey. It was part of my winter life activities. I grew up watching the Wings on TV . It is part of many northerners background. We played the game and understand how it works.
When you move to an area with no history of the game ,people will go at first out of curiosity ,then they will quit. They don’t get fired up over the Wings beating Toronto or Montreal again. They do not know the players or recognize the rules. The intricacies of the passing. They probably do not even know what a 5 hole is. How do you get them out of a casino for that.

Well the Las Vegas Thunder didn’t last very long as an IHL (AHL?) team in the 90’s.
How popular are the ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers?

Vegas as a destination = “hot and dry”. Hockey = “cold and icy”. I’m not sure that people will be able to get over that difference.

OTOH, there’s an artificial ski hill in Arabia.

Maybe it would work. But it would be risky and marginal, falling outside usual thought patterns and experience.

There was a time when people from everywhere went to Vegas. Now ,with gambling available everywhere ,is the Vegas crowd more local?
They have to develop a fan base. They can draw a few tourists but they go to Vegas to gamble. It will be necessary to sell season tickets to practically fill the house every game. I do not think it will happen.

I’m in Buffalo and I can see the Sabres screaming bloody murder and fighting a team in Southern Ontario.

As far a Vegas goes, I’d consider going there once to see the Sabres play. After that the novelty would be gone. I have planned long weekend in other cities to see friends based on when the Blue Jays would be in town.

How many of the people that have moved to Vegas in the big boom lately are from rust belt cities that grew up with Hockey and might be avid local fans?

Hello, I am a Las Vegas tourist. :cool:

I came from thousands of miles away to*:

  • look at the hotels
  • see the shows
  • watch the gambling

and I am not alone…

I think that a successful sports team will attract the tourists. N.B. American Football is probably the most popular US sport on English TV.

I went to see Penn + Teller, Spamalot, the Abba musical, the Beatles musical and the Bellagio fountains.
Only one of these is not available in England (or on English TV), so Las Vegas tourists do go to see such things…

*attend the Vegas Dopefest and met Dopers. :smiley: Hi Dmark! Hi Kurilla!