NHL Announces New Vegas Franchise

Bill Foley, owner of the new Las Vegas franchise, gives the crowd a thumbs up at the 2016 NHL Awards.

Bill Foley, owner of the new Las Vegas franchise, gives the crowd a thumbs up at the 2016 NHL Awards.

David Minster

Come the 2017-2018 season, the National Hockey League will have a 31st franchise with the addition of a Las Vegas team. Vegas, considered one of the liveliest cities in the country, is also one of the largest U.S. cities without a major league sports team. As of now, the big sports in Las Vegas are UNLV’s Division I sports, the Las Vegas Bowl for NCAA Football,  bull-riding and USA Sevens Rugby. Their only minor league team is the Las Vegas 51’s, which is a New York Mets affiliate.  Las Vegas is known for its nightlife, casinos and entertainment – it might soon be known as hockey city if their new team performs well.

There are a multitude of reasons why there hasn’t been a major franchise in Las Vegas. Many involve the perceived problem of legal sports betting, as all pro teams traditionally have strong anti-gambling policies. Having numerous entertainment options is considered to be an obstacle for opening an NHL franchise in Las Vegas, but some believe that opening a Vegas franchise could be a gold mine. 

A lot is unknown about the new Las Vegas team because the expansion was only announced in June, but recently Bill Foley, the owner of the new Las Vegas team, said that the team name will contain the word “Knights” in it. This comes as no surprise as Bill Foley is the lead investor in Black Knight Financial Services. Names such as the Black Knights, Desert Knights and Golden Knights have been floating around, but the official name decision is expected to be announced within the next few months. The Las Vegas team will select 30 players, one from each team, and every other team will

select certain members of their team that they want to keep. This new franchise will be playing in the Pacific Division, hoping to dethrone the Anaheim Ducks. The new team will also be playing its home games at the T-Mobile Arena, which opened back in April with hockey in mind and is located just west of the famed Vegas Strip.

The last few teams to enter the league were the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2000. The Wild have been a force in the league since entering, putting up a winning record of 558 wins and 469 losses, but overall have struggled in the playoffs with a record of 24-39. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, have a losing record of 485 wins and 565 losses, and have failed to make the playoffs since 2013. It might be difficult for them to make a splash in the Pacific Division going up against the Ducks, Canucks and Sharks, but its possible for the new Vegas franchise to sneak into a Western

Conference playoff spot. 

While we won’t see this team for a little over a year, it should be interesting to see if they can shake up the league. They could either immediately make an impact like the 2000 Minnesota Wild did or struggle to find their place in the league like the 2000 Columbus Blue Jackets. A new team should bring the NHL more revenue and, as shown by the thousands of Las Vegas residents hoping to buy season tickets, the new team is sure to gain popularity and support in no time. Hopefully, for Las Vegas’ sake, the new franchise will be successful, and will bring the Stanley Cup to the strip sooner rather than later. It will be interesting to see how the legal gambling dilemma plays out, as other leagues like MLB and the NFL have been busy ensuring there is no funny business occuring within their ranks.