One of our goals here at SinBin.vegas is to be the voice of the valley when it comes to the NHL. In trying to do so we often have the opportunity to interact with some incredible people (and excellent writers) who are equally as passionate about hockey in Las Vegas as we are. Therefore, we wanted to give you, our readers, the opportunity to let your voice be heard via guest posts to the site.
Our next guest post comes from Stephen J Sochor.
The NHL All-Star Game takes place this weekend, and with it, another chance to get some updates from the NHL’s commissioner himself about the status of the expansion process. With two special sessions undertaken by the Executive Committee regarding Las Vegas and Quebec this month, there should be enough of a foundation for Gary to share with the public. He will most likely echo what has already been written about. In case of the off-chance there is big news I reached out the Nashville Predator’s play-by-play announcer Pete Weber on how Nashville got its start to see if we can come to any conclusions.
Nashville was given a conditional franchise in June of 1997 along with Atlanta, Minnesota, and Columbus. The plan was to have Nashville, along with Atlanta, join in 1999, with Minnesota and Columbus jumping in for the 2000-01 season. According to Weber, however, Nashville lobbied the league to come in a year earlier than scheduled.
“At the time, the plan was for the Predators to join the NHL the same year that the then-Tennessee Oilers were set to move to Nashville themselves.” – Pete Weber
This move to jump the gun was spear-headed by then owner Craig Leipold, and the NHL would grant such a request if they could sell 12,000 season tickets by March of 1998. The early entry was granted and they were able to become the first professional franchise in Nashville without any competition.
“In hindsight, Nashville would have liked to have had joined with the Titans at the same time because that first year for the Titans was when they went to the Super Bowl and that generated a lot of [interest]. It ended up favoring Nashville obviously because they did not have to share [an expansion draft].”
As we stand with the NHL in regards to Vegas, we know there has been no formal recommendation made to move to a vote on expansion. It would be highly suspect that one would occur if there was not enough support for at least one team to be accepted. To round out the next handful of months, there feels as though there are a few chances to get this process completed. It is most likely that in order to have the expansion situation ironed out, there has to be a ton of work behind the scenes with the owners, the league, and the players association being conducted. Intertwined with such back-room talks has to be the input of Bill Foley, and it would be easy to see that given the practice arena is all but ready to go (such an undertaking does not happen on a hunch, and was not part of any multi-structure financing package since T-Mobile Arena stands on its own financially).
Could Foley quietly be leading a charge to entering into a Nashville-esque entry? It’s not probable, but the signs are all there – the least of which is the deafening silence coming from the Foley camp. It’s said throughout sports that whenever it is the quietest, that is when most of the work is being done…and it’s been awful quiet for an awfully long time.
Back to Mr. Weber who had an interesting tidbit as we drew our conversation to a close,
“I think it will work in Las Vegas. I’ve always said that whatever of the pro leagues gets to Vegas first would have success.”
He likened the situation of Las Vegas to Portland, where a singular pro franchise was able to draw an uninterrupted market for full control. The big item on the table would be television distribution where he added that it would be quite a feat to launch a regional sports network (RSN) in short order, and that most likely Vegas would need to piggy-back off of an established RSN such as Fox Sports’ Arizona or West (Los Angeles).
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