Las Vegas is getting an NHL team. We’ve assumed this for a long time, but this is the most official cue we have: the Associated Press has reported today that the NHL has made their decision on expansion and that Vegas will be the city getting a team.
A few important things there:
- Yes, it’s expansion. The league will be expanding to 31 teams beginning in 2017-18.
- That means it’s not relocation. The Carolina Hurricanes have been rumored to be in trouble and there were unsubstantiated reports that they might relocate to Vegas, but as of now they are safe. Vegas will be a new team and not a relocated team. In financial terms, this means a reported $500 million expansion fee for the NHL.
The team is expected to play at the brand-new T-Mobile Arena, located right on the Las Vegas Strip. Owner Bill Foley has said he wants to name the team the Black Knights, although that’s far from official. He has plans for a $17 million practice facility for the team to be ready by the fall of 2017, and the organization has sold roughly 13,000 season ticket deposits.
The NHL's executive committee met last week in New York and recommended Vegas for expansion, and the full NHL Board of Governors will be meeting in Vegas (coincidence) next week to vote on that. It’s expected to pass and could be announced officially next week.
But wait, 31 teams?
The league is adding just the one city in 2017-18. Does that mean that down the line they might expand to 32 teams? Yes, probably — it seems likely given that 31 teams is enough to make anybody who likes symmetry cringe. But it also means that for now, Quebec City — the other city that was under consideration for expansion — will not be getting an expansion team.
So does Quebec City still have a chance?
There’s talk that the NHL wants to keep Quebec City open in the event that Carolina or another team does need to relocate down the line. That could be the case. After all, there’s stable ownership and a new building and a hockey-mad population in QC just waiting for the Nordiques to come home.
But the other complication is the Canadian dollar, which as of this writing is worth 78 cents to the American dollar. The league’s business is done in American dollars, but a team in Quebec City (or any other Canadian city) will make their money in Canadian dollars. It's an issue.
Quebec City still has a chance, but it sure would help their case if that dollar bounced back.
What about Seattle?
I’ve been of the opinion for a while that the NHL really wants Seattle to work as a hockey market. The problem there is there’s no suitable arena in or around the city, and the city can't seem to get out of their own way when it comes to figuring out that problem.
Maybe the NHL is hoping that Seattle figures this out, and then they can award them an expansion club down the line. Then you’d keep Quebec City as the relocation option and we get a 32-team NHL with teams in Seattle, Vegas and QC. Maybe. Who really knows?