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Minor League Affiliate Ideas; Vegas A Possibility

One of the first things an NHL must do to complete their organization is to have a minor league affiliate, and maybe two. Every team in the NHL has an AHL affiliate and all but five have ECHL affiliates as well.

With Las Vegas expecting to have just 15 months from announcement to puck drop, the process of getting minor leagues teams in place has to be done quickly.

On with Brian Blessing and Sportsbook Radio The Creator shed a little light on the discussions that have already been had.

Reno is a possibility, good tax state, got an arena, they want to work with us. Central Valley of California. Somewhere we can get the players up and down easily. We haven’t gotten to locations yet, if we are to get the team we’ll be all over it. It’s a big deal. -The Creator

A while back we wrote about the arena in Reno positioning itself to host a minor league team by planning upgrades to the Reno Events Center. That certainly makes a lot of sense.

We’ve also speculated about Southern Utah and the Grizzlies, something The Creator seemed open to in our conversations.

Central Valley of California could be referencing the city of Riverside where they are considering a new facility for events such as hockey. However, the timing may be tough if there’s not an existing arena.

But there’s one option The Creator did not mention with Brian that could wind up making the most sense in the short term. That’s Las Vegas.

The Orleans Arena was the home of the Wranglers and likely would still be there if not for the spat between Boyd Gaming and team president Billy Johnson. There’s a precedent for minor league affiliates being in the same city as the NHL team in San Jose and Toronto. It’s certainly feasible for at least the ECHL team to be located in Vegas, whether temporarily or permanently.

Personally, I think that’d be a mistake, and here’s why. While I applaud The Creator’s focus being solely on winning, which having the minor league affiliate in town would likely help achieve, the organization must do everything in it’s power to ensure the NHL team is pulling in every hockey dollar Las Vegas has to offer.

By putting the minor league affiliate in the same place as the big team you are risking fans, especially families with children, deciding to attend an AHL or ECHL game rather than an NHL game. Obviously the experience won’t be the same for adults, but for kids, hockey is hockey and the extraneous stuff at an NHL game may not matter. The team should will make a concerted effort to reach families and get them out to games, but having the minor league affiliate pull even a single fan away from the NHL team could be detrimental. It’s simply not worth the risk when the places mentioned above exist and are itching for the chance.

Either way, minor league affiliates will play an important role instantly after the team is made official. Whether they play in Vegas or not, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

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3 Comments

  1. Billy Johnson

    I’m not aware of any spat. I’m aware that The Orleans was the landlord, and did what they wanted to do unilaterally. There was no partnership that required parties to agree to anything beyond the lease, meaning they could say “no” to any new idea and often did. The way we aggressively marketed the team did rub some at The Orleans the wrong way — as did as team’s efforts to remain viable under the terms of the lease. However, The Orleans always got the final say — it was their building. So a spat really wasn’t possible.

    • Although it takes two to tango and I’m well aware that the staff may have felt a bit undermined with Brian Burke running around the building but no one can deny that the working relationship between the organization and the Orleans deterioated as the years went on.

      One thing this is a fact in this, when you fight battles in the media it gives off an unprofessional vibe in which both parties were guilty of, justified or not.

      The Wranglers would probably not be there today no matter what the relationship but as both parties tightened their grip it was clear that this was not a situation where reconciliation was an option.

      • Billy Johnson

        Any playing out in the media happened only AFTER we received our eviction in writing. Once this came in writing, Las Vegas had lost its team. Being in the media after the written notice was a strategy that acted as a “bat signal” because there was no time to make nearly enough of outbound calls to find willing parnters. The media strategy worked in that it put us in contact with people we never would have unearthed, but there simply wasn’t a enough time to pull everything together.

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