One of the last things you might think of in the middle of the desert is a vast expanse of ice. If several people – including poker professional Daniel Negreanu – have their way, that possibility could come into existence in Las Vegas within the next couple of years.
In an interview with The Hockey News Negreanu – whose fondness for the sport is well known and sometimes extends to his attire (favorite hockey sweaters) at the tables – announced his full support of the efforts behind bringing hockey to Las Vegas. “I really like the prospective owner Bill Foley and I’m confident that hockey will work in Vegas,” Negreanu was quoted in The Hockey News interview. “There are 2.2 million people in Las Vegas starving for a professional sports team. The base is there. Sure there is no hockey culture in Las Vegas at the moment, but wasn’t that true of thriving franchises like the San Jose Sharks?”
The powers that be behind hockey in Sin City aren’t jumping into this proposition without previous experience. According to the website Vegas Wants Hockey, Foley (who spent much of his early life in Ottawa, Canada, before moving to Texas) has an extensive background in financial services (serving as Chairman of the Board for a host of banks and financial companies) while also investing in cattle ranching and philanthropic opportunities. Assisting Foley in ownership of the team would be another familiar Vegas name, the Maloof Family, who have in the past owned the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, the Sacramento Kings and the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Monarchs. Negreanu himself isn’t out of the question for a minority stake in the team, either.
It also appears that the citizens of Las Vegas are ready to support what would be the city’s first major professional sports franchise. There have been 10,000 season tickets sold already for a team that doesn’t exist, which is a very appealing point when it comes down to the National Hockey League examining cities for expansion, and a hockey arena is being proposed for the team. Negreanu points out other excellent selling points in saying to The Hockey News, “People don’t go to Columbus to watch the Blue Jackets and make a vacation out of it. That will happen with the Vegas team. If Calgary is playing in Vegas, you can bet that people will use that as a great excuse to make a quick Vegas trip – good for the city, and good for filling the seats.”
According to reports, the decision on expansion has already been made. The Vancouver Province stated in 2014 that the NHL was ready to pull the trigger on increasing the league by four teams and Sports Business News’ Howard Bloom took that a step further in saying that the four cities have already been selected. On that short list from Bloom was Las Vegas, alongside Seattle, Toronto (a second team?) and Quebec, which lost the Nordiques to Denver (becoming the Colorado Avalanche) in 1995. These potential franchises would have to come up with $1.4 billion to cover expansion fees (money paid to existing teams for granting a franchise), however.
With the buzz over hockey coming to Las Vegas, there has also been a great deal of discussion regarding what the team’s name would be and what the logo would look like. ESPN compiled a list of potential names and logos with Bones, Ratpack and Sin being especially interesting. Other names that have been bandied about include the Black Knights (Foley attended West Point and has stated that the moniker would make “a great name”), the Quicksilvers (or some combination of “Silver” as Nevada is “The Silver State) and the Wolfpack (“The Hangover,” anyone?).
Hockey coming to Las Vegas would give the residents just another entertainment option is a city that is packed with them. But what would Negreanu do if his beloved Las Vegas (fill in the blank) were battling in the Stanley Cup playoffs but he had a final table to get to?