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Las Vegas “Virtually A Lock” As NHL Hub City

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s one of the worst kept secrets, the city of Las Vegas is the front runner to become one of the NHL’s playoff hubs.

I think out West that Vegas is virtually a lock. I don’t know that there’s one perfect place but I sense that Vegas has an inside track.-Ray Ferraro, Ray & Dregs podcast

With the decision still in the hands of the league, TSN insider’s Ray Ferraro and Darren Dreger spoke with Commissioner Gary Bettman about the plan to return to play and the selected hubs. Which could impact the Golden Knights and our city.

I’m going to have to make a decision collectively on this probably in about three weeks. I think in two weeks we’ll start narrowing down even further. Somewhere around three weeks we’re going to have to pull the trigger and start finalizing the arrangements and make our deposits. -Bettman

Over the past two months, we’ve covered every reason why Las Vegas makes sense to the NHL, but the decision really falls on the local and state governments. Bettman’s mention that any decision was still weeks away helps the city government assess the logistics. Once elected officials make their decision, the NHL can choose Las Vegas or not. Personally, I have a feeling that both parties would like to come to an agreement.

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Potential Realignment Shouldn’t Affect Golden Knights

The NHL pause has become the newest, most addicting daily soap opera. Every morning fans wake up to read the latest news on the NHL’s plans to restart the season. Yesterday, Commissioner Gary Bettman shared his optimism with the NHL network.

We have a great deal of flexibility in terms of when we can start. There’s no magic for next season of starting in October as we traditionally do. If we have to start in November or December, that’s something that will be under consideration. We’re going to try and make good, prudent, careful judgments. This isn’t a race to be first back. When we come back, we want it to be at the right time, for the right reasons, under the right circumstances. -Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner

Now that the players and owners are engaging in daily conversations it shows the effort to recover the season from both sides. One scenario NHL officials have mulled over was originally conceived by Major League Baseball.

MLB is considering a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division – a concept gaining support among owners and executives. It would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign the divisions based on geography.

The plan, pending approval of medical experts and providing that COVID-19 testing is available to the public, would eliminate the need for players to be in isolation and allow them to still play at their home ballparks while severely reducing travel. -USA Today

TSN’s Bob McKenzie weighed on the possibility of the NHL taking the realignment approach, specifically reducing travel which allows players to play in locations closer to their homes and families.

If they get four sites, and we kind of assumed it would try to be done divisionally if they try to get the 19-20 season finished up. Four NHL sites, one for each division. There is the possibility that they would just say ‘well the Atlantic division is going to based out of Toronto. We’re not going to do can’t that, Florida and Tampa Bay can’t get from Florida up to Toronto. We’ll put them with some of the Metro teams, and move one of those Metro teams.’ You could do some mixing and matching on geographical lines versus divisions. -Bob McKenzie, TSN Analyst

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Can NHL Match NFL’s Virtual Draft?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As a Patriots fan, I tend to lose interest after the first ten picks of an NFL draft. For the good part of two decades, New England would select towards the end of the draft, or trade out of the first round like they did last Thursday. However, the idea of a virtual draft fascinated me, and after the first pick I was hooked. Obviously things were different this year, but the NFL set a good standard for the NHL to follow.

Oh and by the way, the NFL shattered viewership records.

For the most part, the NFL’s virtual draft went well, even the glitches and missteps fit. It was actually quite refreshing considering the current times. Viewers weren’t expecting everything to run smoothly when the commissioner is announcing the selections from his basement and players are finding out through FaceTime. But somehow they made it work and it was entertaining.

When you think about the amount of people that are in separate places I thought it went really smooth. It was interesting to see, you get a little peak into everybody’s personality. I thought some of the outfits were interesting. -Brad Treliving, Flames GM

The digital minds at the NHL need to be as loose and self-deprecating as the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell were. The normally stiff Goodell wasn’t as awkward as expected. He stole a page from Gary Bettman, embracing the boos from NFL fans. Heck, the first round even featured a wardrobe change by the commissioner. Bettman should skip that step, hockey fans don’t care what he is or isn’t wearing.

So how can the NHL enhance their virtual draft?

Certainly our draft is going to be remote, that would be safe to say. For sure I’m going to be watching (the NFL draft) and doing a lot of homework on not only that, but different ideas of how we could potentially do our draft. -Treliving

A virtual draft allows for imagination and innovation, and hopefully the league uses the opportunity to loosen up and entertain. Show us Bettman’s basement. Have cams set up to show players and their families huddled around TVs. Give us a personal glimpse into the lives of the players. Invite us in to see Pete DeBoer and his children hanging out like the NFL did with Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Split screens of GM’s and players on the phone, or using FaceTime. Add some personality to a league that lacks it.

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Could Las Vegas Host Several Playoff Series At Once?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Picture this, Mayor Goodman gets her wish to open casinos prematurely but only certain groups of people are allowed in. A block of rooms would be booked, and only the high-limit tables would be open. Call it a soft opening. Those guests, or tenants, would be NHL players.

TSN’s Frank Seravalli proposed four NHL cities that are well suited to host postseason series. Dallas, Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Toronto were the locations suggested. His criteria were logical and based on areas that would be safe and accessible.

The plan could include regular-season play, a traditional 16-team playoff, or even an “expanded” playoff.

Teams might be grouped by division, but not necessarily, Bettman said. Sources indicated that the NHL could have teams playing at sites outside of their usual geographic area, such as two groups of eight teams at two sites in the West – circumstances that would be dictated by which localities have eased restrictions.

“We’re just constantly trying to figure out what our alternatives will be,” Bettman said.

Bettman’s stated requirements for host sites are:

– “The location could be anywhere besides a [COVID-19] hot spot.”

– “We need a lot of ice. There does need to be practice facilities.”

– “We need four NHL-calibre locker rooms. Because if you’re going to play three games in one day, you’ve got to be moving things around, and you’ve got to make sure that we’re taking the proper sanitizing procedures.”

Sources indicate the league is keeping a running list of up to 10 NHL cities that could suitably host in the event of a centralized restart.- Frank Seravalli, TSN

At first glance Las Vegas seems to be a perfect location to host multiple series. Thanks to the shutdown and social-distancing, Southern Nevada is not a hot spot for Covid-19, which is cardinal rule #1 for Commissioner Bettman. T-Mobile Arena has many rooms that can convert into NHL-Caliber lockerrooms. Army, Cornell, Providence, and Ohio State all fit comfortably during the Fortress Invitational even with an NHL game taking place on the same day.

But, there’s one massive reason why Las Vegas can’t be one of the initial four hosts when if the league does indeed use this plan. That reason is a shortage of ice.

The city of Las Vegas currently only has three sheets of ice that meet NHL standards; one at T-Mobile and two at City National Arena. A year from now there will be two more at Lifeguard Arena in Henderson, then in a few years another one at the AHL rink in Henderson, but as for now, you can’t reasonably make NHL teams vying for a playoff spot practice at the Ice Center or Sobe Arena. Not to mention, with everyone housed on the Strip, transporting players and equipment for SEVEN teams back and forth the 17 miles to Summerlin, only to be crammed into City National Arena simply isn’t logical.

Las Vegas is just not suitable for eight teams. So scrap that idea.

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Playoff Participation Plan Diminishes Vegas’ First Place Finish

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Silly comments from P.K. Subban shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone around the Golden Knights. Remember this?

He knows he bit me. I’m not trying to rip his head off. I’m not that type of player… I don’t know how I walk out of there with four minutes in penalties… It wasn’t explained. They tried to apologize after the fact that they gave me four minutes in penalties. My finger is bleeding. I don’t know what you want me to do.-P.K. Subban accusing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of biting his finger, 01/23/19

Well P.K. is back, and he’s pushing the idea of a ridiculous 31-team playoff. Subban believes the NHL should allow every club a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, including his 68 point Devils team. Contenders like the Golden Knights worked hard to position themselves for a Cup run, but none of that matters to the former Norris Trophy winner.

It was kind of floated around… I saw a few things on social media and I like that. For my team specifically, we were pushing to make the playoffs down the stretch. I would like to see our team have an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup. I’d love too see a 31-team playoff and give those pesky Devils an opportunity of bringing the Cup back home to New Jersey. I’d love to see that. -PK Subban on ESPN

While it might sound intriguing to certain fanbases, it makes zero sense for any legitimate contender. In fact, the real losers would end up being the Golden Knights and other elite clubs. Why should they be punished for playing strong during the 71-game paused season?

The NHL is not college basketball, or even the World Cup. The Stanley Cup playoffs is not a tournament of rewarded participants, it’s a tournament of winners. So, why would Vegas, St. Louis, Boston or Tampa want to risk playing a team that has nothing to lose, and face losing to a #16th seed? They wouldn’t, and frankly, they’d be wronged if the league forced them too.

If you’re New Jersey, you’re sitting there and you say, ‘okay fair enough we realize below the cut line.’ Then you say but Montreal, sitting with 71 games 71 points. The Devils go ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, time out, we’re three points behind Montreal with two games in hand. Why would you give Montreal a chance?’ The Devils would say ‘well Montreal can’t be a part of any postseason thing because we got a better point percentage then them.’ So, I guess that’s kind of where P.K. was coming from. -Bob McKenzie

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Expected Financial Loss May Be Worse For The Players

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the pause continues, it’s no surprise the NHL is preparing for a severe loss in revenue. It’s not to suggest they would rush to play, but like most of us, the league is facing serious financial issues. It’s already started inside the league office.

But the players may be the ones that get hit the most.

Hall of Fame hockey scribe Larry Brooks reported NHL players were alerted to a staggering amount of earnings lost due to the pause.

The NHL has informed the NHLPA that revenue losses could range from the best-case low of a couple of hundred million dollars to a worst-case amount of up to one billion dollars, The Post has learned. -Larry Brooks, NY Post

The NHLPA spoke with player representatives and explained the escrow share could reach a loss of 21% if the season and/or playoffs are canceled. Under the current labor agreement, it’s possible player contracts would be paid only 65% of their salary for 2019-20.

The season is approximately 85-percent complete. The discrepancy reflects a combination of the 6-to-10 percent of revenue generated by the playoffs and the fact that a full playoff would come at the cost of the remaining 15-percent of the season that would not be played. No wonder the players are pitching the idea of resuming the season in some form and playing for the Stanley Cup in August and September.-Brooks, NY Post

For a team like the Golden Knights who were expected to make a deep run, the pause takes significant money out of the players’ pockets. Playoff shares, according to the NHL are distributed by “A single lump-sum payment of $6,500,000 shall be made by the NHL to the players on account of a player fund, which shall be allocated to the players on clubs participating in the various playoff rounds and/or based upon club finish, as shall be determined by the NHLPA, subject to approval by the League.”

Without the postseason, players stand to lose a good chunk of change, and because of their escrow agreement, they stand to be impacted financially even more than the owners.

Players and owners split the NHL’s “hockey-related revenue” 50/50 (players get their share in salaries). At the end of the playoffs every year, both sides get together and count up how much money the NHL made that season. They then use that number to estimate how much it’ll make the next season (a five per cent bump is a typical ballpark guess). The salary cap, which is designed to make sure the players get 50 per cent of the revenue and no more, is then set based on that number.

But because it’s impossible to predict exactly how much revenue will come in, a percentage of every player’s paycheque is held in escrow until the money is counted at the end of the season (it isn’t always the same, but 15 per cent is a good ballpark number). If the NHL does really well and exceeds the revenue projection by a significant amount, all that money is returned to the players. But if it doesn’t, the owners get to keep however much they need to ensure they end up with exactly 50 per cent of the revenue. –Jesse Campigotto, CBC Sports

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NHL Suspends Season Temporarily

The NHL announced today that they will be temporarily suspending the season. The league hopes to resume the season but the situation is fluid.

Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. -Gary Bettman

The decision to temporarily suspend play due to the COVID-19 pandemic is an appropriate course of action at this time. The NHLPA will continue to closely monitor this very dynamic situation and remain in daily discussions with the league, our medical consultants, and our players regarding all aspects of this matter. The players are looking forward to the opportunity to resume play in front of hockey fans everywhere. -NHLPA

Bettman Still Gloating About Vegas’ Success

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Earlier this month NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reminisced about the early stages of Golden Knights history. Bettman discussed the infancy of the franchise, how the inaugural 2017-18 season proved the sporting world wrong, and the emotions the players carried with them all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.

Bill Foley has done an amazing job. It starts with the fact that he was in love with the game of hockey, and he believed hockey would work in Las Vegas. Most people at the time thought we were crazy. We had done our homework. Finally, there was a state of the art arena that was built with MGM. We believed based on everything we knew and learned about the market… including a season ticket drive that we let him do, that this market would support a team. -Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner

None of what Commissioner Bettman said is new to this fanbase, but two and half years later he still finds himself explaining why Vegas was successful from the get-go. Maybe it gets annoying but Bettman has no problem reminding sports fans that the Golden Knights paved the way for the Raiders relocation.

Now everybody thinks, ‘oh sure, we’re going to come Vegas too,’ well that’s not what people were saying initially.-Bettman

What mostly confuses fans of other sports is how the Golden Knights became so good so fast. Also, fans are curious how Vegas has maintained their achievements. Bettman went on to explain the progressive expansion rules that set up for a competitive team immediately. After two playoff bound seasons, it would be tough to envision a bad Golden Knights hockey team. Thankfully, this market didn’t have to suffer from the outdated expansion rules Atlanta, Minnesota, Nashville and Ottawa struggled under. Bettman learned from those teams early troubles and didn’t want Vegas limping from the start.

In every sport when an expansion team comes in, historically the leagues give a weak team to the expansion team. Make them suffer for a few years. What typically happens is the team comes in, there’s the initial enthusiasm in the marketplace, the team continues to underperform, there’s a dissipation of the initial enthusiasm, and about ten years after the team starts they get competitive and then they rebuild. We didn’t want that model. Since we have a model where every team can be competitive, why were we going to bring in a team initially that couldn’t be competitive? Therefore, we had the deepest expansion rules that I think any league has ever had. -Bettman

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Gary Bettman Remains Bullish On Vegas, Golden Knights

**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.**

Among the 18,188 in attendance Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena for the Golden Knights-Nashville game was the general manager of the Seattle NHL franchise.

I assume Ron Francis was taking careful notes, both from what he was watching on the ice and what he was seeing inside The Fortress.

He would be wise to do both.

Also in attendance Tuesday, and nearly as conspicuous, was the NHL commissioner.

Yes, Gary Bettman was in the house and he kept a low profile, lest he get the crap booed out of him by the Medieval Maniacs who may never forgive him for the performance of his officials in Game 7 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last April.

Do Knights fans have long memories? Hell yes they do.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

What was Bettman doing in Las Vegas? He was a speaker at a symposium on sports betting at the Global Gaming Expo Wednesday morning at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. He was in good spirits and rightly so, given nobody booed him and no one asked him about officiating or concussions and CTE.

He was asked about the success of the Golden Knights and what it has meant for the NHL in the team’s brief existence. He was quick with his responses, praising Bill Foley for the job he and his organization have done (Sorry Ken, Bettman did not refer to Foley as “The Creator”).

I asked him if Francis should be paying close attention to what goes on here at T-Mobile.

Seattle is its own market. I think the experience inside T-Mobile Arena is consciousness-raising. But we all know what works in Las Vegas doesn’t necessarily work elsewhere. Seattle is going to have the same opportunities in the Expansion Draft and everything is on schedule and we expect Seattle will be another fantastic NHL experience. -Bettman

For Bettman and the NHL, the growth of sports betting throughout the U.S. is an opportunity to help develop new fans and give existing hockey fans more options to connect to the game. It’s a far cry from 20 years ago when then-Mayor Oscar Goodman paid Bettman a visit in his mid-Manhattan office in an attempt to secure a franchise for Las Vegas and got the cold shoulder.

But timing is everything. The building of a first-class arena, the growth of the area’s population and rising media market and an owner who was willing to put up half a billion bucks all helped change Bettman’s mind. He became an advocate for Las Vegas and had he not backed Foley’s bid, Las Vegas might’ve been Quebec City on the outside looking in.

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Understanding The NHL Draft Lottery

The first time the Vegas Golden Knights will officially participate in an NHL sanctioned “competition” will be at the NHL Draft Lottery on April 29th. With a little help from TSN’s finest Frank Seravalli, the math wizards at HockeyViz.com, and this thing called Twitter, we unearthed the exact odds the NHL will be using for the 2017 lottery.

For those who are new to the NHL, the lottery is a system that was implemented in 1995 to curb the appeal of tanking. Rather than awarding the team with the worst record in the league the first overall pick (like NFL and MLB) the league instead gives them the best chance to win the lottery. All non-playoff teams are entered into the lottery with their odds to win corresponding to their record; worse the team, better the odds.

The NHL Lottery is actually a series of three lotteries using identical odds to determine the top three selections in the NHL Draft. After the lotteries decide the first three picks, teams are slotted in to the draft order based on their record. Therefore, the worst team can select no lower than fourth in the first round, and are guaranteed the first pick in the second round.

Still with me?

Now let’s move into how the Vegas Golden Knights fit into this year’s lottery.

The Las Vegas franchise will be given the same odds in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-17 regular season. –NHL Expansion Draft Rules

Thus, two teams have better odds than the Golden Knights. After the lotteries, Vegas is technically the third worst team meaning they can select no worse than sixth (will explain how in a moment), and are guaranteed to pick third in the second through seventh rounds.

NHL Draft Lottery Odds (courtesy of HockeyViz.com)

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