NHL Awards Las Vegas Its First Major Sports Franchise

AP Photo
The Associated Press

On a day when thermometers reached 110, Las Vegas announced the arrival of a sport that plays on a 16-degree surface.

“The name of [owner] Bill [Foley’s] website was VegasWantsHockey.com,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Wednesday. “Starting today, Vegas has hockey, NHL hockey.”

The team becomes the 31st franchise in the league and the first club added since the 2000 expansion gave birth to the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets. More significantly, the team becomes Sin City’s first professional team in the four major North American sports. Although long a mecca for boxing and more recently a hotbed for mixed-martial arts, the city’s association with gambling made it taboo for the NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB. But with the NBA supporting a legalized sports book, the NFL pondering a possible move to Las Vegas by the Raiders, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred dubbing the city a “viable alternative” for a baseball team, and the NHL awarding it a team, Las Vegas suddenly finds itself feted by organizations that once regarded it as verboten.

Foley paid $500 million to join the exclusive hockey club.

The expansion draft allows the team to pluck a player from each of the 30 existing NHL rosters. Teams can protect as many as ten skaters and one goalie, with rookies and second-year players exempt. Las Vegas enters next year’s lottery with a pick no lower than sixth.

Foley hopes to reveal the fledgling hockey club’s nickname by fall but the West Point graduate favors Black Knights. The team steps onto the ice for the first time for the 2017-2018 season and hosts games at the new T-Mobile Arena.

“Our great sports town now has a major league franchise, the NHL,” Foley explained. “It’s the best of the leagues. It’s a legendary league. Las Vegas is my home along with 2.3 million other people. We want everyone to be a fan. We’re dedicated to it. We’ll leave no stone unturned in our dedication and our pursuit of hockey here in Las Vegas, not just for our team, but for the community.”

The NHL board of governors unanimously approved the Las Vegas franchise. The board also tabled a decision on a team returning to Quebec City.