NHL officially adds Las Vegas as 31st team
LAS VEGAS — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s press conference on Wednesday was delayed 20 minutes because the NHL Board of Governors was still meeting. The delay was a mere trifle in a city that had waited so long for a major professional sports franchise.
Bettman confirmed what everyone already knew when he announced that Las Vegas would become home to the NHL’s 31st team and begin play in the 2017-18 season after a unanimous vote by the league’s board of governors.
“Well, Las Vegas, we did it,” said team majority owner and Las Vegas billionaire, Bill Foley, who organized a season-ticket drive to prove the city’s appetite for hockey and eventually got to 14,000 commitments. “It wasn’t easy, was it?”
This is the first time the NHL has expanded since 1997 when the league announced the additions of Nashville, Columbus, Atlanta and Minnesota over three seasons. Bettman noted that when the league last expanded, Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, iPads and the NHL Network did not exist.
“The strength of the Las Vegas bid, the success of the ticket drive and the unique appeal of the market led the executive committee and subsequently the board of governors to determine that expansion is not only appropriate but is important to the league’s continued growth,” Bettman said.
Foley said he loves the widely speculated nickname Black Knights because he is an Army graduate, but he said no decision has been made on a team name. He hopes to have a logo and jerseys by next season.
Las Vegas will play in the Pacific Division with the Coyotes, bringing that division’s total to eight teams, just like both Eastern Conference divisions. The Central Division will remain at seven teams and Bettman said there is no timeline or plan for adding a 32nd team to balance the conferences, although the league has made its interest in Seattle plain.
Bettman also announced that the NHL had chosen to defer Quebec City’s expansion bid, citing “elements over which the Quebec City group had no control whatsoever,” including the struggling Canadian dollar, the imbalance of the league’s two conferences (16 in the East, 15 in the West) and the desire to limit the number of players lost by existing teams in next summer’s expansion draft.
The NHL is the first major sports league to expand to Las Vegas, which has been home to a number of minor league teams.