Bill Foley looked tired. And indeed, he was.
The chairman and CEO of the Golden Knights and the man who brought the NHL to Las Vegas had gotten home late from Thursday’s exhilarating 4-2 come-from-behind win over the New York Islanders at T-Mobile Arena.
He was about to spend 90 minutes outside “The Arsenal” team store at City National Arena Friday afternoon, signing copies of the team’s official book that recapped its magical inaugural season. And the line was long. After all, how many fans get to meet the owner of the team they root for?
But that’s what makes the man Ken refers to as “The Creator” so special. He loves interacting with the Golden Knights’ fan base. He’s so down-to-earth that even though he’s a billionaire, he can relate with those who sit in the balcony at the Fortress and who have invested more than money in this team.
I found that out early on when I first interviewed Foley back in 2014. Friday, we sat down in a conference room adjacent to his office at CNA, an office, which by the way, is fairly spartan. Not a lot of memorabilia or pictures. Very simple, perhaps an ode to his West Point days in the 1960s.
We talked for just over 16 minutes (you can listen to the entire audio of our conversation below) and we touched on a wide range of topics.
Remember, this is a man who had to bury his son in August after 31-year-old William died. He is still grieving and he admitted he’ll never get over his loss.
You can replace an injured player or a player who is under-achieving. But you cannot replace a family member who died way too early.
But he said hockey and the Golden Knights have been cathartic. And for those couple of hours when the Knights are playing, he can allow himself to focus on the team and the game.
It’s a great distraction. -Bill Foley
Normally, this would be a regular column. But Foley had so many interesting things to say, I figured why not let you hear and read everything?
So here’s my Q&A with the Top Knight from Friday afternoon:
SinBin: How would you assess the state of the Golden Knights on the ice at the moment?
Bill Foley: “Honestly, I believe we’re in a really good spot. We’re 22 away and now 15 at home. It’s the biggest split in the league. I think the next closest is the Avalanche who are 20 and 15. So we got through that horrendous period of five at home, 17 away.
“One of the goals was to get a point a game. We needed 17 points and we got 20, so we got through that. And we did it with a lot of injuries. (Max) Pacioretty is out again for a bit. (Erik) Haula’s month-to-month …”
SB: Did you see that brace on his knee?
BF: “Yeah, it’s terrible.”
SB: What did he have, a broken kneecap?
BF: “I can’t tell you. But it’s a tough rehab he’s going through. (Colin) Miller has an upper-body. But he’ll be back pretty quick. I just talked to him and he should be back soon.”
SB: Yeah, he was one of your reliable guys, along with (William) Karlsson. But how about Will Carrier? He’s played every game this year.
BF:“He’s got, what, seven goals now? Last year, he got hurt a lot. I feel like we’ve got some guys who are surprising and we’ve got some guys who are getting it together.”
SB: Who are the surprises?
BF: “Carrier has been a pleasant surprise. (Ryan) Reaves. Reavo has scored some good goals and he’s dominating with the hits. He’s a big, tough guy.
“I thought Eaks (Cody Eakin) moved up to the second line and played great. He’s still playing great now that he’s back on the third line. Tuchy (Alex Tuch) is really advancing. He’s really going to be a player. I don’t know what you think, but he’s really a player. He’s fast.
” I think Karly is coming on. He started slow but he didn’t score his first goal last year until the eighth game and the same thing happened this year. He’s had a slower start and I don’t know that he’ll get to 43. But he should get to 30, 33. He’s a good player.”
SB: Are you going to try and lock (Karlsson) up long term?
BF: “I shouldn’t say anything about that. But we want him. We want him. We got Theo (Shea Theodore) long-term. We got Tuchy long-term. We signed Marchy (Jonathan Marchessault) a year ago. Miller’s in for three years. Pacioretty for a good long term. We’ve got a bunch of six-, seven-year deals and at price that make our team … we can be aggressive if we want to be. George (GM George McPhee) doesn’t like too much differential in salaries.”
SB: Can you see making a move before the trade deadline?
BF: “I don’t know. You have to give something to get something.”
SB: What’s your gut telling you?
BF: “My gut is not going to tell you.”
SB: You know, you used to be a lot more open. I think George has influenced you a lot. But do you like this team the way it’s constructed?
BF: “Yeah, I’d like to see this team healthy and see what it can do. I believe it is a superior team to last year if everyone is healthy and playing. I believe George made some really good off-season moves and beefed up our lineup.
SB: And you’re comfortable with the fact that Neal, Perron and Sbisa are no longer with the team?
BF: The guy we really tried to get (to stay) was Neal. We made him what we thought was a really good offer. Again, agents get involved and I know Neal loved it here. In Las Vegas, he was the real deal. In Calgary, I don’t know if he’s the real deal up there. I don’t know if he’s comfortable there. But he’s a good guy. In the playoffs, he was a warrior. And he’s great in the locker room. He keeps that locker room together and he’s an experienced guy.”
SB: Maybe you’ll get him back?
BF: “I would love to get him back. I like the guy. He’s not the greatest defenseman in the world. (laughs).”
SB: Are you concerned about Marc-Andre Fleury given the amount of minutes and games he has played so far?
BF: “He’s taken on a lot of games and he’s doing great. Everything’s coming together really well. He’s getting us back in it.
“I liked the game (Malcolm) Subban played for us against Columbus (Monday). If he can give us that kind of game when we put him in, we’ll be just fine.”
SB: Off the ice, how pleased are you with what’s going on? I’m seeing fewer visiting fans in T-Mobile …
BF: “You can thank my push for that.”
SB: Do you notice a different atmosphere in the building?
BF: “I always thought we had a great atmosphere. Last year, we weren’t sure what it would be like. When Minnesota saw the schedule, they want out and bought a bunch of tickets. So did Edmonton and Calgary. Blackhawks. Detroit. Rangers. They were there in massive amounts. This year, you don’t see it. So I’m happy about that.
“And I love in the third period when we do the cheer at the end when it’s “Tourists” and it’s “ah” and then “Locals” and it’s “Yeahhh.” I’m happy with what we’re doing.”
SB: The pregame changed this year. Last year, you had the Excalibur sword coming out of the rock. This year, it’s a sword fight …
BF: “There’s a change underway right now.”
SB: There’s a rumor the sword and the rock may be coming back
BF: “Excalibur is coming back. The rock and the sword are coming back.”
SB: Why is that important in your mind?
BF: “I believe it helps the support and supplement the Knight culture. The idea we are the epitome of the warrior class. I believe you’re going to really like this new opening.”
SB: I thought at first the sword thing was hokey last year, but I got to like it. I don’t like this sword-fight thing this year. I think it’s lame.
BF: We’re getting rid of it. No more fighting. We don’t need that.”
SB: Are you considering a third jersey for next season?
BF: “We’re trying to get the color right. A particular color …”
BF: “I’m not going to confirm ‘Gold,’ but a particular color that is bright, that people can wear to a game and they’ll stand out. Right now, the steel grey, and it’s a beautiful jersey, but it doesn’t stand out. The white stands out and this new jersey will stand out. George is working hard on trying to get this color. I want him to get it right.
SB: I would think George doesn’t have the time to mess with jerseys. But he has his fingers in every piece of the pie, doesn’t he?
BF: “He does. He helped design the Washington jerseys and changed them around. He was instrumental getting more Washington fans in the stands because when he got there, all they got was people from Pittsburgh and Philly coming down. And I don’t like it either. So it’s about our building and the locals. ‘Vegas Born.’”
SB: A couple of personal things. Your son’s death had a profound effect on you, Carol and your entire family. How have you been dealing with it? Has the hockey season been cathartic in a sense it gives you a chance to try and get away mentally and emotionally?
BF: “I’m staying busy and I’m spending a lot of time on hockey. And it’s a great distraction. It’s been a big loss for our family because we’re all really close. It’s been really tough on the women in the family, really tough. And Rob (Foley’s son Robert) is having a tough time with it too. But he’s got this new job as Chief Business Officer of the hockey team and he’s doing great. He’s such a smart young man.
“You never get over it. Why does the son die before the dad? It’s sad.”
SB: And you had someone in the organization who was like a son to you in Murray Craven. What happened there?
BF: “Murray’s a terrific guy. It’s just that his job had run out. His construction part was done. And we’ve got some other guys in the organization that really need to be involved with the (Chicago) Wolves.
“So it was a two-year deal and George said, “Look, I just need to make something different.” Murray is good guy and he did a good job. I know he’s upset. It’s more Murray’s job ran out and we didn’t have the right job for him at this level. I’m hopefully going to help him get a job in Seattle.”
SB: Does he want to go there?
BF: “I think he does want to go there. When I talked to him after he left, I told him, ‘You need any help with any team, let me know and I’ll be happy to support you.’”
SB: There’s talk about Henderson getting some ice. What’s the latest?
BF: “We’re working on it. We’re looking to purchase the land and the infrastructure around it. It won’t be as extensive as this (City National Arena). There’s going to be two sheets of ice, a small team store, locker rooms between the two sheets.”
SB: But there won’t be a McKenzie River (Pizza)? That one worked out pretty well too.
BF: “Better than we thought. But no, no McKenzie River.”
SB: Have you found some land?
BF: “Yeah, we’re working with the city and we’re working with some landowners who would like us to work with them. We’re willing to build it and finance it. We’re probably looking at around $13 million. But it will be nice.”
SB: When would you like to have it ready by?
BF: “We’re hoping for June 2020. We can get it done. Our calculations are that we’ll have run out of ice time for youth hockey by 2020. And 30 percent of the kids that are playing come from Henderson. So we need it.
“And let’s get the high schools going. I saw what Faith Lutheran has done and it’s great. Hopefully, (Bishop) Gorman will follow. They’ve got the money.
“This is important to us. That’s why we went to the middle schools (of the Clark County School District) and put in the floor hockey curriculum. It’s worked out great. The kids are into it. We just need more sheets. Because this is a hockey town now.”
SB: One last thing, your thoughts for the second half of the season? Are you confident you’ll make the postseason, and, without any further injuries, compete for the Stanley Cup?
BF: “If we don’t have any further injuries, we’ll be fine. We’re playing at home. We’re 10-3-1 at home. That’s as good a record as we had last year. We’ll be home a lot (in the second half) and that’s great.”
**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.**