The NHL awarded an expansion team to Las Vegas on Wednesday, but fellow applicant Quebec City wasn’t as lucky.
The new Sin City franchise, approved by a unanimous Board of Governors vote today, will begin play in the 2017-18 season. Home ice for the Pacific Division club will be the recently opened T-Mobile Arena, which has a hockey capacity of 17,368 and must have a pretty awesome cooling system.
The primary owner for the new squad is Bill Foley, whose franchise is on the hook for a $500 million expansion fee, which will be equally distributed to the existing 30 NHL teams.
“In the fall of 2017, when we celebrate the 100th birthday of the NHL, we will do so as a League of 31 teams,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We are pleased to welcome Bill Foley and the city of Las Vegas to the League and are truly excited that an NHL franchise will be the first major professional sports team in this vibrant, growing, global destination city.”
“On behalf of the 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,” said Foley. “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.”
The hockey-in-the-desert move marks the first league expansion since 1997, when the NHL added the Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus and Minnesota markets.
Meanwhile, the National Hockey League put its leading new Canadian opportunity on ice, deferring the expansion application by Quebecor and its ownership group there.
“Although the League sees Quebec City as a prime opportunity for future expansion, the Board of Governors concluded that the NHL’s lack of geographic balance, the belief that it would be best not to assimilate multiple teams into the League at this time, as well as the recent and significant devaluation of the Canadian dollar made it prudent to defer Quebecor’s application,” the league stated.
The accepted 31st team will build its roster through the traditional draft and an expansion draft.
The Las Vegas franchise will be given the same odds in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-17 regular season. Its first round selection will be guaranteed no lower than the sixth overall pick.
The team then will select third in each subsequent round (subject to trades and other potential player transactions), the league said.
As far as the expansion draft goes, preexisting clubs can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or they can save eight skaters of any position and one goalie.