The Desert Sun just released an article stating that an NHL team and the first professional sports team is coming to Las Vegas. The team will be named the Black Knights which will inevitably be seen as some sort of racial profiling I would imagine. All jokes aside, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of this situation. By the way, if you don’t think this is happening, there are already numerous reports from behind the not-so-closed doors of the NHL’s GM meeting that was held recently that at least one expansion team will be coming to the NHL for the 2017-2018 season.
I think this move is good for the city. Rumors of what the venue could and probably will look like are pretty unreal. There are talks of a bar elevated above the ice surface and I would venture to guess digital slot machines behind every seat in the arena. The city has the same personality as many hockey players; wheel, snipe, celly.
This could do similar things to what the Kings, Ducks and Sharks have done in California and Dallas has done in Texas. Not considered hockey hotbeds 20 years ago, are now producing some talented American born hockey players. California currently has the highest conversion rate of turning novice players to elite players. Perhaps having an NHL team will put Nevada on the map. Worst case scenario it will bridge the Western and Central States.
Another interesting thing about location. Considering that the Coyotes are most likely staying in Arizona and ASU has a Division 1 men’s hockey team, how many other west coast schools will follow suit? I have noticed that the University of Utah currently plays in D2 in the ACHA. They have a Pac-8 conference with large Pac-12 schools participating; USC, Oregon, Arizona and UCLA to name a few. 10 years down the road, perhaps UNLV supports a college team and an 8-12 team NCAA D1 league is formed. I am sure the schools could provide the funding for it and I am sure each area could draw some local talent. The trickle-down effect of this would create a possibility for more Junior programs and youth programs and growing the footprint of hockey in the United States.
There are obviously some issues with expansion that have to be considered as well. I think the biggest and probably hardest question to answer right off the bat is how will this differ from Arizona? Remember when the Coyotes moved to Arizona and there was a ton of excitement? That excitement died as quickly as their fan base and jersey selection. Can hockey really survive in the desert? Does anything survive in the desert, or is this just another blame Bettman moment where he creates an Oasis where there is no water?
The other interesting thing about expansion is it means expansion draft. Most of the core NHL followers, myself included, don’t really remember the last NHL expansion draft. With the change to the game in terms of speed and skill level, I think every player on each roster is important. I understand there will be rules to follow and those are yet to be known, but each team will inevitably have to list a few players they are willing to give up due to expansion. While it won’t be any blockbuster names, there will probably be some cream in the crop.
The biggest change however, at least for the 2017 NHL draft, the Oilers will not get the first overall selection.