The NHL finally revealed the worst-kept secret in sports, formally granting an expansion team to billionaire Bill Foley and the city of Las Vegas.
The NHL Board of Governors voted unanimously to add a 31st team to the league, starting in the 2017-18 season. This is the first time the league has expanded since 1997. While the team does not have an official name yet, the reported leading candidate is the Black Knights. They will play in the Pacific Division and will play their home games in the newly opened T-Mobile Arena, with a hockey capacity of 17,368.
In a statement, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said:
“In the fall of 2017, when we celebrate the 100th birthday of the NHL, we will do as a league of 31 teams. We are pleased to welcome Bill Foley and the city of Las Vegas to the league and are truly excited than an NHL franchise will be the first major professional sports team in this vibrant, growing, global destination city.”
In the same statement, new team owner Bill Foley said:
“On behalf of Las Vegas Founding 75, our 14,000 season-ticket holders and the entire Las Vegas community, I would like to thank Commissioner Bettman, the NHL staff and the team owners for their support during this process and the confidence they have placed in Las Vegas by awarding this franchise. I also would like to thank everyone who supported us through this incredible journey. As I’ve said many times over the past year, Las Vegas is a hockey town and we look forward to cheering on our home team.”
Las Vegas’s partner during the expansion process, Quebec City, was denied an expansion team at this time. The statement by the league called the location a “prime opportunity for future expansion,” but decided the a lack of geographical balance and the weak Canadian dollar were too big of hindrances at this time.
The league has denied that they are waiting for Seattle (or Tukwila or Bellevue, as the case may be) to get an arena plan together, and we all know that sports commissioners’ comments should always be taken at face value, right?