Gary Bettman (left) and Bill Foley (Photo by Bryan Steffy/WireImage)
Even though it wasn't on the agenda at the NFL owners meeting, there was considerable buzz about the possibility of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas. The NHL says that will not impact its plans for Vegas.
Part of the lure of Las Vegas for the NHL is the fact that if it were to expand to Sin City, it would have an opportunity to gain a foothold in the market by being the first major professional sport to put roots there. But now there is talk the NHL might have some company.
The possibility of the Oakland Raiders relocating to Las Vegas is gaining traction. Even though it’s not even remotely close to happening at the moment, influential owners Robert Kraft (New England Patriots) and Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboy) have endorsed the concept. And even though it was not on the agenda at the recent NFL owners meetings, it did create a certain amount of buzz. When asked what his fellow owners think of the idea, Raiders owner Mark Davis replied by saying, “I haven’t heard anybody say no, so I’ll go with that.”
This could, of course, be another example of a professional sports team shaking down its market for all the loose change it can find to fund a new stadium. This is essentially how it works. Billionaires who own teams hold their cities hostage by threatening to move unless the good taxpayers of that place fund luxurious new sandboxes in which to play. Those facilities are paid for with taxpayer dollars and in return for their investment, those taxpayers get to watch as the team operates the stadium and takes virtually all of the revenues out of it. That’s how these guys roll.
In any event, the NHL doesn’t appear terribly worked up about the possibility of having a more crowded sports scene in Las Vegas. When asked whether the possibility of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas would impact the NHL’s plans one way or the other, deputy commissioner Bill Daly responded to thn.com by email, “No impact whatsoever. Doesn’t even enter the equation.” When asked whether the possibility of having another league in Las Vegas might cause the owners to reconsider Las Vegas, he said, “Doubtful.”
And so it goes with the NHL expansion process, which has been very, very quiet as of late. The notion that Las Vegas is a slam-dunk and Quebec City will be denied is still where the smart money is going. The league has even gone so far as to work out the parameters of the expansion draft with the NHL Players’ Association, but the league has also been very careful to make it clear that should not be construed as a signal the league has made a decision on anything.
Potential Vegas franchise owner Bill Foley, who has done everything the NHL has asked and continues to wait for the green light, apparently has several people in place who would make up his front office and begin assembling a team to play in the 2017-18 season. Given that there isn’t even a shovel in the ground for a new football stadium in Las Vegas – Davis has pledged $500 million to help build a $1.4 billion facility, though – and efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland have not been exhausted, that would give the NHL at least a couple of years to gain an identity in Las Vegas before the Raiders ever showed up. And there is some doubt as to whether that will ever happen. In fact, one source with knowledge of the situation told thn.com, “The NFL is not going to Las Vegas. You can take that to the bank.”
It was expected the 10-member executive committee would meet earlier this month to decide on expansion, a decision that would be endorsed by the board of governors later in the summer. But Daly told thn.com that meeting was never set in stone, but did say there will be a scheduled executive board meeting planned for early June prior to the full meeting of the board of governors. Expansion is not officially on the agenda, but it will almost certainly be discussed. If anything happens on this front, it's likely not to transpire until after the Stanley Cup final is played. Commissioner Gary Bettman has traditionally been loath to have any news upstage the showcase series of the season.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Daly said. “Nothing new to report."