By: Anthony Del Fiacco, KCOU Sports
Early Monday, Bill Foley, prospective owner of what would be the first Las Vegas franchise in the four major North American sports leagues, announced his would-be hockey team’s season-ticket drive had crossed the 8,000 mark in total sales.
If you remember, Foley’s group, Hockey Vision Las Vegas, LLC, which also includes the Maloof family, first started the drive Feb. 10 in order to gauge Vegas’ potential as an NHL market. Deposits of $150 to $900 could be made online at vegaswantshockey.net, and the committed goal for season tickets was set at 10,000. So when 5,000 deposits were made within the first 36 hours, the Vegas ownership group took that as a big first step.
Keep in mind, 5,000 tickets in 36 hours and 8,000 in less than a month may sound unimpressive when the long-term goal is a hockey franchise that can draw 20,000 fans a night, 41 nights each season. Had Foley’s group, say, announced right now it was looking to bring the NHL back to Quebec City instead of introducing it to Nevada, the hockey-starved Quebecois would’ve passed the 10,000 season-ticket deposit mark roughly by the time you finish reading this sentence.
Both the commissioner’s office and Foley’s group, unsurprisingly, will prefer to interpret this latest news with a “glass half-full” mindset. Citing the deposits as coming from Las Vegans, separate from the city’s businesses and casinos, with a genuine interest in professional hockey coming to town, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had this to say to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet last Wednesday:
“The numbers that are coming out are … within very strict parameters. When they designed their ticket drive, they did it with our input and basically we told them what we’d like to see is how many local, non-corporate fans they can get to put up real money without a promise of having a NHL team.
“If you look at it through that lens, I think the response has been good. Because if you add to that what they probably have already in corporate and casino commitments, they basically have a full building.”
There’s nothing wrong with this sort of optimism, mind you. When you temper your expectations enough to accept that you obviously won’t immediately find as many interested fans in the Mojave Desert as you did in Winnipeg (13,000 tickets sold in 17 minutes following the Atlanta Thrashers’ announcement to move there in May 2011), then reaching 80% of your goal in four weeks seems like an acceptable pace. But time will tell how long it will be before that 10,000-deposit goal is reached. After that, the hard work truly begins: arena plans, arena construction, sponsorship (that actually may be the easiest part given the location), and then, as stated before, expanding from those 10,000 season ticket holders to upwards of 18,000-20,000 fans coming in regularly to see the home team.
In time, the league and Foley’s group may discover they’ll need as much help from “corporate and casino commitments” as possible in keeping this dream of hockey on the famous Las Vegas strip afloat. Otherwise, their great gamble could go the same way as millions of others made in Vegas before it: cleaned out and forgotten in due time.
HOT & NOT: Who had a good weekend and who didn’t
HOT: Boston Bruins
A 5-1-1 stretch in the last two weeks, including a pair of home victories over the Flyers and Red Wings this weekend, has helped the Bruins keep the Florida Panthers at a safe distance (four points ahead with one game in hand) in the chase for the last Eastern Conference wild card spot. Which as it should be; one only needs to look at the “fancy stats” to see how stark the difference is between the two. Boston does a far better job of driving possession than Florida.
NOT: Nashville Predators
With a 3-1 loss to Winnipeg on Saturday, the Nashville Predators have now dropped their last six games, all in regulation. It’s the longest such losing streak for any Peter Laviolette-coached team ever, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time: the St. Louis Blues now sit just two points behind them in the Central Division race with two games in hand. It appears the chickens might be coming home to roost for the league’s second-“luckiest” squad (according to SPSV%.)
HOT: Carey Price
The Vezina Trophy shoo-in and Hart Trophy frontrunner blanked the lowly Arizona Coyotes on Saturday for his seventh shutout on the season. As I said two weeks ago, Montreal’s season rests almost entirely on Price’s shoulders.
NOT: Boys’ needs over girls’ needs
Normally, as a big opponent of the NHL’s shootout system you’d think I’d be more accepting of ties. Not so much this case. A girls’ ice hockey championship in Connecticut mysteriously ended 2-2 after two overtimes this weekend and its two participants, Simsbury and East Catholic/Glastonbury/South Windsor, were declared “co-champions.” The reasons for this abrupt end remain unclear, but all signs point to the girls’ championship pushing past the 3:30 pm start time for the boys’ county title game. Not good, everyone involved. Not cool at all.