Do you get the feeling that NHL players are sick of still being asked if Las Vegas will be a distraction? Well, Oilers TV found out when they asked a few star players. Ducks Center Ryan Kesler laughed as he said “you can get yourself into trouble in all 50 states.” Kesler isn’t kidding either, remember Dustin Byfuglien’s boating arrest on one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes? You don’t need casinos and clubs to get into trouble. Booze and women can distract players in any city, it’s just the right combination.
Hart trophy candidate Jamie Benn seemed to answer for most NHL players when he said “we’re all adults, we’re all professionals.” Benn isn’t downplaying that Las Vegas is a thrilling city, but players will have one thing on their mind “obviously it’s a exciting city to come into but we’re coming in to do a job, and that’s to win a hockey game.” Based off Benn’s point production, no one doubts that he’s been distracted on the road.
It’s not the shows, clubs, or casinos that make NHL GMs nervous. It’s more or less that Las Vegas is a 24-hour town. The distraction everyone is talking about is the availability of Las Vegas. Whatever you want all day and all night. That’s why America loves the Strip. Brent Burns loves coming to Las Vegas but isn’t concerned about road letdowns “I think it’s no dangerous or no more distraction than any other city.”
There is some form of gambling in every NHL city but six. Players are aware of all forms of gambling. They know about hard eights, doubling down, and Wheel of Fortune slots. However, they don’t need Las Vegas to play their luck. Vancouver, Montreal, and Detroit Casinos are Uber rides from arenas. If any player had a gambling itch, they would have no problem finding a fix in other NHL cities.
The lesson here is that NHL players are professionals and care about one thing during the season. Getting into the playoffs is not a walk in the park, so wasting opportunities on the road isn’t how the NHL works. In a way, winning can be distraction for an NHL team. If a team is so focused on winning, they’ll be too distracted to care about surrounding influences. I suspect we’ll see a lot of competitive games at the T-Mobile Arena. If a road teams loses, it won’t be because they stayed out til 4am at the Crazy Horse. NHL teams will come to Las Vegas to try and win, not to have a boy’s weekend in Vegas. The Spearmint Rhino and Drai’s will just have to wait until award show week.