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Carp: Bill Foley – Las Vegas’ Sports Figure Of The Decade

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

As the decade comes to an end, it got me thinking recently about who was the person who had the biggest impact on sports in Las Vegas in the 20-teens.

I thought about Don Logan, the president of the Aviators who kept baseball going and was able to preside over the construction and opening of the beautiful Las Vegas Ballpark in Downtown Summerlin.

I thought about Mark Davis, who decided to bring his Raiders here from Oakland rather than return to Southern California.

There was Jim Murren of the MGM who built T-Mobile Arena and brought the WNBA to town. There was Brent Lashbrook, who brought professional soccer back to Las Vegas.

I couldn’t ignore Pat Christenson, the president of Las Vegas Events who was able to keep the National Finals Rodeo here and has positioned the city to host NCAA championships in the next decade.

But of the short list of candidates, there really was only one person who belongs at the top:

Bill Foley.

The man responsible for bringing major league professional sports to town and who has made the Golden Knights a worldwide brand in three years is my Las Vegas Sports Figure of the Decade.

When Foley first thought about buying a hockey team in 2014, few, if any of you knew of him. He was living in Florida as chairman of Fidelity National Financial. He had numerous businesses in Montana, California and abroad.

Nobody knew much about Foley. He had been paired with the Maloof brothers by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to investigate the possibility of the league expanding to Las Vegas.

You know the rest of the story.

But Foley is significant for more than just bringing hockey to Southern Nevada. He is responsible for the vision that is the Golden Knights, from the culture to the distinctive logo, to the marketing and the colors and the blueprint for success that he devised and stuck with.

He has hired the right people on both the hockey side and the business side and allowed them to do their jobs. Yes, he is involved but he’s not your typical meddlesome owner. He trusts George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon. He trusts Kerry Bubolz and Brian Killingsworth. He trusts Gerard Gallant.

He has given his players everything they need to succeed and then some. A lot of it never makes it to the public’s eye but ask anyone who has played here and you won’t hear a negative word about Bill Foley.

He also justified Bettman’s faith in him. Remember, the NHL was considering Quebec City along with Las Vegas in 2016. You may also remember Foley asked you to put down deposits for season tickets on a team that didn’t even exist the February before. So there were no guarantees that this would happen.

But Bettman’s instincts proved right. Foley was the person to lead expansion into Las Vegas. And he has delivered virtually every time.

He is a personable chap. He’s friendly. He appreciates and loves the fan base and they love him back. He’s accessible to the media. In short, he’s not your typical billionaire owner.

He’s also a man who gets it. When the horrible events of Oct. 1, 2017 unfolded down the street from T-Mobile Arena, Foley mobilized his organization, pivoted 180 degrees and put on the appropriate pregame ceremony to honor the 58 victims nine days later. That West Point education served him well in that moment. He was a true leader.

He’s also proven to be a decent actor. The team has featured him in a couple of videos and I’m not sure how many NHL owners would be willing to do that. Or any professional sports owner for that matter.

But that’s Foley. He never takes himself too seriously.

What he does take seriously is winning. Any time this team loses, it doesn’t sit well with him. He’s proud of the inaugural season and the run to the Stanley Cup Final. But it still pains him to have seen Alex Ovechkin skate around the T with the Cup.

He’ll always be bitter about the way the team’s season ended in Year Two. No amount of apologies from the league will ever change that.

He will spend money to improve his roster. He will reward his players by paying them well. He gives McPhee and McCrimmon what they need to be successful in terms of hiring staff. That’s what a good owner is supposed to do.

And spend he did. He put his money where his mouth was: a then-record $500 million to join the NHL. And he didn’t even blink in doing so. He had faith in the Las Vegas market and he was rewarded.

And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, look what Seattle is doing as it prepares to join the league as its 32nd team in 2021. It’s as though it used the Foley-VGK playbook in structuring its operations.

So as we head to the Twenties, will the “Cup in Six” prediction made by Foley three years ago come to fruition? Will it take longer? Will it ever happen?

The hockey gods will likely determine that. But one thing I know — with Bill Foley owning this team, I like the Golden Knights’ chances of winning the Cup more than I think they won’t.

With that said, Foley does have some explaining to do on one matter — when’s Ken going to be able to purchase his VGK third jersey? But don’t let that preclude the man we call “The Creator” here in SinBin Land from getting the accolades he so richly deserves. He’s Vegas’ Sports Figure of the Decade, third jersey or not.

**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**

Expect Another Active Deadline For The Golden Knights; But No Rentals

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There are 66 days left before the clock strikes midnight (technically noon) on the NHL’s open trade season. February 24th is the NHL’s trade deadline and like they have been each of the first two years, the Golden Knights are expected to be busy.

We were tight on the cap, but now we’re kind of clear. If we do things right we’ll be in good shape at the trade deadline to do something interesting. We’ll see what the opportunities are. We have a need in one particular area that I’m sure George is going to try and fill. –The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline

Speculation is sure to run rampant between now and then but the most likely “need” for the Golden Knights is an upgrade on the back end.

We’re accruing cap space every day right now, not a lot… so there could be something happening (at the deadline) but not a Mark Stone type happening… Then we want to try and start building cap space. We really do, we want to have more cap space. -The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline

There is one key caveat the Golden Knights like to stick to though.

George and Kelly won’t give up assets for a rental. It just doesn’t happen. They want a player that’s going to be with our team for a long time. -The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline

There won’t be any Taylor Hall-esque deals for Vegas.

If we bring someone in at the trade deadline we’re going to want to have a contract with him. If we want that person we’ll want a longer-term deal as part of the transaction. -The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline

This doesn’t completely mean the upcoming UFA’s are completely off the table for the Golden Knights, but it does mean the net will be cast a little wider.

The Golden Knights are expected to have their pro scouting staff in house in early January to start preparing for February 24th. From that point on, expect the Golden Knights to be active on the rumor mill looking for that final piece to push them across the finish line this season.

**Listen to the entire interview with The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline with Brian Blessing here.**

Gary Bettman Remains Bullish On Vegas, Golden Knights

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Among the 18,188 in attendance Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena for the Golden Knights-Nashville game was the general manager of the Seattle NHL franchise.

I assume Ron Francis was taking careful notes, both from what he was watching on the ice and what he was seeing inside The Fortress.

He would be wise to do both.

Also in attendance Tuesday, and nearly as conspicuous, was the NHL commissioner.

Yes, Gary Bettman was in the house and he kept a low profile, lest he get the crap booed out of him by the Medieval Maniacs who may never forgive him for the performance of his officials in Game 7 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last April.

Do Knights fans have long memories? Hell yes they do.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

What was Bettman doing in Las Vegas? He was a speaker at a symposium on sports betting at the Global Gaming Expo Wednesday morning at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. He was in good spirits and rightly so, given nobody booed him and no one asked him about officiating or concussions and CTE.

He was asked about the success of the Golden Knights and what it has meant for the NHL in the team’s brief existence. He was quick with his responses, praising Bill Foley for the job he and his organization have done (Sorry Ken, Bettman did not refer to Foley as “The Creator”).

I asked him if Francis should be paying close attention to what goes on here at T-Mobile.

Seattle is its own market. I think the experience inside T-Mobile Arena is consciousness-raising. But we all know what works in Las Vegas doesn’t necessarily work elsewhere. Seattle is going to have the same opportunities in the Expansion Draft and everything is on schedule and we expect Seattle will be another fantastic NHL experience. -Bettman

For Bettman and the NHL, the growth of sports betting throughout the U.S. is an opportunity to help develop new fans and give existing hockey fans more options to connect to the game. It’s a far cry from 20 years ago when then-Mayor Oscar Goodman paid Bettman a visit in his mid-Manhattan office in an attempt to secure a franchise for Las Vegas and got the cold shoulder.

But timing is everything. The building of a first-class arena, the growth of the area’s population and rising media market and an owner who was willing to put up half a billion bucks all helped change Bettman’s mind. He became an advocate for Las Vegas and had he not backed Foley’s bid, Las Vegas might’ve been Quebec City on the outside looking in.

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“More Of Subban This Year”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the first time this season, Malcolm Subban will be in between the pipes for the Golden Knights tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.

Last year, Subban played 21 games, starting 20 of them. Max Lagace got one game which left 61 for Marc-Andre Fleury. That includes a nine-game stretch at the end of the season where Fleury was out with an injury. If not for that run, Fleury likely would have played 65 or more games.

The prevailing thought around the NHL is 65 is too many, heck most believe (including Jason and I) that 60 is even too many.

Of the 13 starting goaltenders that have hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup since the beginning of the salary cap era in 2005, none played more than 70 games in the regular season. In fact, only two of the 13 played more than 60 games. –Jesse Granger, The Athletic

The Golden Knights, at least what they stated publicly, were pretty stubborn last year in their comments about not holding Fleury back to a certain number. This year, the thinking may have changed.

You are going to see more of Subban this year, you will. George and Kelly and the coaches have it figured out and they have games identified for Subban and you are going to see him more. It’s part of what needs to happen. –The Creator on Sportsbook Radio

Tonight’s game is not a back-to-back, the Golden Knights are not in the midst of a hectic week schedule-wise, and there wasn’t much travel involved. It simply seems like load management for Fleury.

We want to make sure Flower is really ready for the playoffs. He doesn’t want to do it, he wants to play every night, he’s such a competitor. –The Creator on Sportsbook Radio

Subban played two to three games a month for the first five months of the season last year. This year, that number will probably be closer to four to five a month, and the Golden Knights will be better off for it… even if Subban doesn’t play as well as Fleury can.

McCrimmon, McPhee, Creator Weigh In On Expanded Video Review

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Time has passed since the #NotAMajor incident that helped lead to the Golden Knights season coming to a close far earlier than most had hoped. However, the topic of changing the rules to ensure something like that never happens again remains very much on the forefront.

The Golden Knights have three powerful voices that will be involved in the process of amending the rules this offseason and they each have a slightly different idea of what should take place in regards to video review.

First, here’s GM Kelly McCrimmon’s belief, speaking on the Sports and More podcast with Dean Millard.

My feelings are that we don’t need more video review in the regular season, in fact, I think a case can be made for less video review in the regular season. I do however, at playoff time, think the rules should be different with respect to video review. If it was as simple as reviewing any overtime goal for a puck that maybe hit the netting behind the glass or was hand passed or high sticked or whatever the different situations that might occur, I think with what’s at stake at that time of year it’s most important to get it right. That’s out of respect to the players and the game, ownership, fan bases, and everyone that’s fully vested at that time of year. I just think with what’s a stake at that time of year I do believe video could be used probably more to everyone’s advantage to make sure the right calls are made whenever possible. -Kelly McCrimmon

President of Hockey Operations George McPhee took a slightly softer approach speaking to TSN at the NHL Scouting Combine.

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“We Are Not A Budget Team”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the league calendar gets set to turn to 2019-20 all eyes seem focused on the color red.

Through the first two seasons, the Golden Knights have not had to worry much about in terms of the salary cap. In Year 1, the floor was as much in view as was the cap. In Year 2, money was being thrown around left and right for Marc-Andre Fleury, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves, Nate Schmidt, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, and Mark Stone, but there still was no concern for reaching the cap. Now, as decisions need to be made on William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nikita Gusev, Jimmy Schuldt, and others and suddenly the salary cap is the main point of focus in Vegas.

George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon, and the Golden Knights front office have plenty of ways to manage the cap. The most obvious way would be to make a trade or two to move some salary out. This may very well happen. But, despite what you may hear/read, it also may not.

The salary cap in the NHL is incredibly complicated. There are pages and pages of legalese that govern the league’s cap. It’s so complicated that almost every team in the league has a specific person on staff whose job is to do nothing but focus on the cap. For the Golden Knights, that’s Andrew Lugerner.

From the outside looking in, we don’t get to see the whole picture. We don’t have the entire rule book. Instead, we tend to rely on a birds-eye view of simply adding all of the contracts together to come up with a total number. In the Golden Knights case, that number is too high already, and they’ve still got work to do. But that’s not how the salary cap works. There’s daily accumulation, long-term IR, performance bonuses, two-way contracts, assignment clauses, buried contracts, buyouts, discounted cap hits, and probably numerous other loopholes we aren’t aware of.

Luckily, we don’t need to be, we just need to know that whatever is necessary, the Golden Knights have the ability to make it happen.

We are fortunate that we are not a budget team. We aren’t one of those teams that is always on the edge in terms of its financial performance. In fact, our financial performance has been very good and as a result, we can make some things happen that maybe some other teams couldn’t have made happen. -The Creator

That comment was made in regards to promoting Kelly McCrimmon to GM, but it can easily be applied to just about everything else with the organization. If there’s a way to gain an advantage, the Golden Knights owner is going to be willing to pay for it.

He did it in the Expansion Draft by allowing McPhee to add bad contracts for draft picks, he’s allowed the organization to go from an expansion team to one pushing up against the cap in Year 3, and there have been numerous stories of what he’s done in and around the facilities to make Vegas one of, if not the, best place to play in the NHL.

So, if there’s a way to use some of The Creator‘s money to help the Golden Knights get under the cap, McPhee will have the green light to do it.

Just never forget that when we see the red number next to Vegas’ name that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Things do need to happen for the Golden Knights this offseason, but they may not always be things we see. The reason that’s possible is ownership’s willingness to do whatever it takes to create, in his words, “a dynasty.”

Change In Title, Not In Command

It was August of 2016 in an airport in Vienna, Austria that Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee first met Kelly McCrimmon.

When George called me in July, I had never talked to him, I had never met him before. -McCrimmon

Both on their way to the Ivan Hlinka prospects tournament in Slovakia, the two met for the first time and eventually formed a partnership that would take the NHL by storm.

It’s the best working relationship I’ve had in this business. -George McPhee

On that day McPhee began the process of courting then owner, general manager, and head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, Kelly McCrimmon, to become his “assistant.”

I told Kelly when I was trying to hire him that he was going to be involved in every single thing we do here. -McPhee

McCrimmon took the job, officially titled “Assistant General Manager” and the two immediately got to work.

However, it was never really a situation with a first and second in command. Instead, McPhee quickly turned over half of his responsibilities, making the relationship much more of an equal partnership. It literally happened days after McCrimmon took the job.

I divvied up the teams, I said you take these 15 NHL teams, I’ll take these 15 NHL teams. You deal with them all year, I’ll deal with these and we shared everything, basically co-managed for three years and that will continue. -McPhee

Quite frankly, since the moment he started, Kelly was the general manager of the Golden Knights in relation to those 15 teams, but in reality, it was much more than just half the league.

The thing that’s special about our organization and our relationship is just the collaboration. -McCrimmon

That has continued ever since.

Literally however insignificant a move we’ve made, it has never ever been someone overruling the other. -McCrimmon

We haven’t disagreed on anything. For two guys who didn’t know each other, to get together and see things the way we see them, it’s just been a real treat to work together and I think we’ve been good and we’re going to keep doing it the same way. -McPhee

That’s why, when McCrimmon’s name started popping up as a prime candidate for open GM positions in Edmonton and Seattle, McPhee knew he couldn’t let his “co-manager” leave. So, he had to come up with a solution.

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Kelly McCrimmon Promoted To General Manager, George McPhee To Remain As President Of Hockey Operations

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights announced today that Kelly McCrimmon has been promoted from Assistant General Manager to General Manager. George McPhee, who previously had the title of General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, will now simply become the President of Hockey Operations.

Truthfully, very little will change with the Golden Knights organization. McPhee remains first in command and in complete control of all hockey decisions, while McCrimmon gets a title boost, probably a pay raise, and a few added responsibilities.

The reason for this move is because of how coveted McCrimmon is by other teams. He was a lead candidate for the General Manager position in both Edmonton and Seattle. The title boost means the Golden Knights will not lose McCrimmon to either job.

Functionally, there will be a few minor differences.

In this new role, McCrimmon will represent the Golden Knights at the league’s General Managers Meetings and be the point of contact for other NHL GMs. -Golden Knights press release

As far as from the fan perspective, this move has nearly no impact on the chemical makeup of the front office. The same people are making the decisions, with the same power structure in place.

The main takeaway that should come from this move is The Creator’s continued commitment to the Golden Knights success. Rather than let a trusted person leave for a better position, the team gave him a new title to keep him with the organization. Further proving, The Creator will spare no expense to reach the ultimate goal.

McCrimmon, McPhee, and Foley are expected to meet with the media at noon today at City National Arena.

Locker Room Clean-Out Day Highlights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the final media availability of the season nearly every Golden Knights player spoke to the media. We also had extended press conferences with The Creator, George McPhee, and Gerard Gallant.

Of course, there will probably be 50 stories on this site based off many of the comments on this day, but we wanted to share some of the highlights from the day.

(If you would like to listen to every second of the nearly 2 hours and 15 minutes of locker room interviews that we participated in, go here or to our podcast feed.)

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McPhee “Committed” To Keeping 2019 1st Round Pick

Vegas didn’t have a 1st round pick last year, they don’t intend on that being the case this year.

Historically, George McPhee is active around the trade deadline. Whether his team is good and he’s buying reinforcements (like he did last year in Vegas) or if he’s bad and selling for the future, McPhee normally takes advantage of the closing of the marketplace at the end of February.

In his 17 years in Washington, McPhee made a move at the deadline (within three days) in 15 of the 17 years.  Last year, McPhee pulled off three deadline trades, adding Tomas Tatar and Ryan Reaves and moving on from Brendan Leipsic making it 16 of 18 seasons at the helm he’s swung a deadline deal.

However, he’s in a bit of a bind this year in regards to future assets. Appearing on the Golden Knights official podcast, The Creator mentioned an unwillingness to move on from draft picks.

We’re going to be very careful about the draft picks, giving up draft picks, this year. You know we gave up a #1 last year and George is really committed to keeping that #1 this year. It’s a pretty good draft class. -The Creator

The Golden Knights currently have nine picks in the 2019 Entry Draft including two extra 3rds and two extra 5ths.

Courtesy of CapFriendly.com

Aside from the few extra picks, the Golden Knights are not exactly stocked with tradeable assets. The only true position of strength is at defenseman with Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud, and Jake Bischoff all projected to be NHLers. But, it doesn’t sound like The Creator has much interest in losing any of them either.

We have four really good d-men with the Wolves right now and they’re getting ready. They really are. You might see them up and down a little bit later on in the year. Definitely next year I’m sure we’ll be doing something. -The Creator

So, while history suggests McPhee will be interested in making something happen at the deadline, a bare cupboard may force him to sit on his hands.

If I had to guess, I’d still expect something minor, but everyone with their eyes on the blockbuster, it may have to wait a year.

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