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Friday, June 24, 2016

Hockey in the Desert

The big news here in Las Vegas this week is that we got a hockey team, Not a minor league team, but an honest to goodness NHL team, the first major league franchise from the four major North American sports leagues to arrive. I would describe the mood here as jubilant, though there are certainly some cautions.

The population of Las Vegas is just a tad over 600,000, which is a bit low for a major league team (I'm surprised to find that Columbus and Nashville have more people). It also is not exactly the first place you think of when it comes to hockey, especially since Canadian cities, such as Quebec and Hamilton, were passed over. But there have been teams where there is no natural ice for forty years, going back to the Los Angeles Kings. There are also teams in Phoenix, Tampa, and Miami, where the only ice is in a cocktail. But, of course, not all of those cities have been successful. Atlanta couldn't keep a team, and Phoenix had to be turned over to the league to run.

Las Vegas has had other teams, with varying degrees of success. Currently there is a minor-league baseball team, the 51s, which does fair business, while they lost a minor league hockey team, the Wranglers, due to problems with finding a place to play. There was also a Canadian (?) football team and an Arena League team that were busts.

So what should be expected from this NHL team? For it to succeed, it has to be a hit with locals, because though Las Vegas gets zillions of tourists, they don't come for sports. I think locals will be interested, if the pricing isn't too high. The people who live here would probably love something to do with the family--the one Wranglers game I went to was well-attended with families--but if the cost is too prohibitive, and only affordable by rich people, it will not be successful. Las Vegas is mainly Hispanic, and I'm not sure they're into hockey as a rule, but might go as a novelty and get hooked.

So far there are over 15,000 season ticket sales. I'm waiting to see if they offer a partial season ticket plan, because I'm certainly not wealthy enough or interested enough to buy a full plan. Hockey, in my opinion, is the best sport to watch in person, as it's constant motion and extremely exciting.

A big plus is that the arena, the T-Mobile Arena, has already been built by MGM, so there is no tax payer burden. The Oakland Raiders are currently toying with the city to get a stadium built, which would cost the taxpayers 750 million dollars. I am firmly against spending one cent on sports facilities. If they want to play here, let them build their own stadium. Look at the chicanery that's going on in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas over baseball stadiums. It's close to being criminal.

The name of the franchise is still to be determined. The owner has ties to Army, which is known as the Black Knights, so those in the know expect that will be the name. The NHL is reportedly skittish about having a name associated with gambling, otherwise the Aces might be the choice. I favor the Rat Pack, which has ties to Vegas and would also be great for merchandise, and could inspire a mascot that would be a giant rat wearing a fedora.

Drop the puck!

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