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.
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.