**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:
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.**
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