Madeline Hubbard ‘19
From its beginnings with the Original Six to the now 30 teams currently in the league today, the National Hockey League (NHL) has grown tremendously in size and popularity. In 2017, the league will expand to include a new team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. This will be the first professional sports team to ever call Las Vegas home. The lack of major sports teams in Vegas previously was due to the rules against gambling on professional sports games and the worry that proximity to the largest gambling center in the U.S. could make game-fixing easier. This concern has died down some now that pro-athletes are paid more and are less likely to look for money elsewhere. Players are however prohibited from betting on professional matches and some franchises prohibit players from working in casinos. Gambling is everywhere not just in Las Vegas; so, many of the major sports leagues have been loosening their policies on having teams in Vegas. If things go smoothly with the new NHL team, the NFL may follow close behind.
With that in mind, the Golden Knights need to succeed beyond just the beginning of the season where the excitement of a new team causes sales. If the team can make it past this period and find success, continued support and attendance from fans, then it will open doors for other pro-sports teams in Las Vegasto follow suit. According to an article by Forbes, the challenge of filling seats in the NHL is significantly more challenging than other leagues, where the number of home games played is much lower. In an article from the New York Times, another concern outlined is that, “Las Vegas will have a hard time supporting a pro team because so many residents are from elsewhere and root for the teams they grew up with. Many also work in the tourism industry and are busy on game days.” Some worry that “selling hockey in the desert can be tough,” especially considering the misfortunes of the Arizona Coyotes.
If the team succeeds, the effect will be more than just good news and money well invested for Bill Foley, the team’s owner. As detailed in a Forbes article, many citizens in Las Vegas are hoping that a pro-sports team will cause a shift in the way people view Vegas. “Long-term, the NHL can help legitimize Las Vegas as more than just an event town.” If the venture fails, Las Vegas will be back to square one having proven that the city is seen only as a destination. Although expansion teams usually don’t do well as they start off, there is hope for the Knights. The NHL has changed the rules for drafting on expansion teams. The new rules make it easier for new teams to pick up players from the other 30 teams while each of the old teams can protect less of their players this year. Next season, the Knights stand a chance at getting a well-seasoned goalie like Marc-Andre Fleury or Jimmy Howard. The rest of the team will come mostly from younger players, some brand new to the NHL, and also the older players who have been in the NHL for a long time but weren’t protected by their team’s contract. So, with any luck the team will make it to playoffs and win the Stanley Cup within the next six years as promised by Foley. If not, at least one can hope that the franchise succeeds and the joy of hockey is spread, creating more fans who love the game as much as I do.