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Hockey in the Desert? Count Me In!

I have been a lifelong hockey fan. My son played hockey growing up, so I was always coaching or watching from the stands. We were both die-hard New Jersey Devils fans and would always go to as many games as we could during the season. I was even fortunate enough to see them lift the cup in 2003 against the Ducks. So, when I heard Las Vegas may be getting a hockey team, I was rather excited to see what was in store. Now, there will undoubtedly be a few tax consequences if the NHL does decide to let the rumored “Black Knights” into the league, but since the arena (which is scheduled to open in 2016) is privately funded, there are no immediate burdens on the Las Vegas locals to fund the project. For now, I am going to let the sports fan inside me have fun with the idea of a professional Las Vegas franchise.

When the NHL announced that we may be awarded a franchise, I immediately doubted the situation. Las Vegas has gotten its hopes up far too many times regarding possible franchises, so I didn’t think much about it. In my mind, I scanned other cities that may be able to serve as a better host to a new NHL franchise (insert basically any Canadian city here). Although I thought of numerous places that may be better, I don’t see why a team couldn’t succeed in Las Vegas.

This could be my optimism getting in the way, but between locals and the corporate casinos, I think ticket sales could be sustainable. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a huge corporate presence in Las Vegas, but the new arena is being built around that knowledge. With less suites, it isn’t aimed at Corporate America. There is a website that is gauging interest in tickets. Those who are seriously interested can put deposits down for tickets beginning today, February 10 (although I was trying to leave taxes out of this, season tickets are a potential write-off for businesses who entertain clients at sporting events). I think the transient population of tourists would boost sales slightly, but given a few years, I think the local population could really get behind the idea of having a sports identity.

One of the biggest issues that stood in the way of past franchises was funding for a new arena or stadium. The great part about this deal is that this hurdle has already been cleared, as MGM-AEG arena is already well on its way to completion. The ownership group, which includes the Maloof family, is full of deep-pocketed investors. This is critical, since a new NHL team would have to pay a franchise fee of approximately $400 million.

The NHL is still conducting its due diligence, but there have been some positive early rumblings from those involved. Whether or not a team is awarded to the city is ultimately up to the NHL brass, but I would fully embrace the change and I think the city would as well.


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