Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City and Toronto are reportedly set to get some new attractions — NHL expansion teams. Howard Bloom of SportsBusinessNews.com was one of two reporters who broke the news on Tuesday.
NHL expansion – four teams added by 2017, Quebec City, Toronto, Seattle, and Las Vegas $1.4b in expansion fees
— Howard Bloom (@SportsBizNews) August 27, 2014
Tony Gallagher of the Province in Vancouver, B.C., had more details:
Sources close to the situation have indicated Las Vegas is a done deal, the only thing to be determined being which owner will be entitled to proclaim that he brought the first major league sports franchise to Sin City.
Now, before anyone gets too excited, Deadspin plays the necessary Debbie Downer role and reminds us that neither of the reporters are “hockey media heavyweights,” so one must take this news with “big grains of salt all around.” To temper expansion dreams even more, Yahoo Sports NHL writer Nick Cotsonika explicitly let his doubts be known.
I’ve been burned before taking the NHL’s word on expansion/relocation. The NHL clearly is exploring expansion. But I doubt anything is done.
— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) August 27, 2014
But if the news is true, especially the part about 2017, it’s a pretty big deal, as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has actively been against the idea of expanding the league in the past.
However, Bettman seems to have changed — or at least slightly altered — his tune on the subject. As Gallagher points out, Bettman told the Star Tribune in March that he’s “listened to expressions of interest” regarding expanding the league, which caused Star Tribune’s Minnesota Wild reporter Michael Russo to definitively declare, “Expansion’s coming.”
It’s true. If past experience and common sense have anything to say about it, expansion is coming. The NHL is not a closed set; it’s expanded before, most recently with the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000. But to put a hard date of 2017 on it seems a little less certain. Three of the four cities named don’t even have viable arenas yet (only Quebec City is certain to have a stadium ready by 2017).
It’s fun to think about, though, especially about a Vegas-based team. Imagine the ridiculous possibilities for team names. The Vegas Highrollers? The Vegas Strip? The Vegas Showguys? The Vegas Craps? That last one sounds like a winner to me.