In June, the National Hockey Association became the first US professional sports league to expand into Las Vegas, Nevada. Never mind that Las Vegas is in the desert, the NHL had already found success in the unlikeliest of places – Nashville, Dallas and Florida. A move to Sin City was the natural progression, and give the NHL a leg up on competition within the lower 48 states, and a city all to itself.
Still without a team name or logo, Las Vegas franchise owner Bill Foley is still putting the pieces in place for his new ice hockey club. The owner is working to find a fitting moniker, though copyrights and other legal issues are making this part of the job far more difficult than one would think. Interestingly, Foley was quoted in a recent Review Journal column, saying the NHL has specifically stated that no names associated with gambling may be used. TSN has reported that Las Vegas will most likely take the name “Knights”, as a nod to Foley’s alma mater Army. The West Point graduate is interested in having a military-esque name for his team in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas gambling stigma is what has, for so long, kept top-level professional sports out of Sin City. The thought of players, coaches, referees and officials betting on the outcomes of games with ease, has kept expansion out of America’s gambling mecca. Although the Oakland Raiders have expressed interest to move to the desert and Major League Soccer has negotiated with the city about putting a soccer team there, the NHL has become the first to gamble on setting up home in Sin City.
According to reports, Foley plans to have a team name and logo set by September. At which time the team will have its official announcement and, as Foley says, “We want to sell a lot of jerseys that day”.
While name, colors and a logo are still being ironed out, the team has put George McPhee in place as the franchise’s first general manager. The former Washington Capitals’ executive’s first task will be to make the unnamed team competitive when it takes to the NHL ice for the 2017-18 season.
The NHL has already decided that Foley and company must spend a minimum of $43.8 million, which is 60% of the upcoming season’s salary cap. Currently, Carolina Hurricanes are the lowest spenders in terms of the salary cap at $56,263,333. Foley’s finances and interest in investing in the team is such that Las Vegas should spend over that number in its attempt to find quality NHL veterans. If the team is pragmatic in its approach to talent, it could come out with a playoff contender in the team’s first season.
In addition to Foley’s laundry list of tasks, the team is working on establishing a minor league affiliate. The American Hockey League announced there would be a 31st team in 2017-18, regardless of NHL affiliation. Las Vegas will take either a current team or expansion AHL team on as its top provider of talent.
With just a few weeks gone from the NHL’s announcement that the league would debut in Las Vegas in 2017, things are moving quickly. Though, there is a lot for Foley and company to accomplish in a short period.
By Drew Farmer