It surely looks as if the NHL will approve an expansion team in Las Vegas at their next league meeting later this month. The cheering has begun in Sin City and pundits around the country – and in Canada too – are starting to take stock of what this might mean. Let me stipulate that my knowledge of hockey is about an eighth of an inch deep but I do have some questions about this decision which will lead me to pay attention to the fate of the Las Vegas Black Knights (that is the rumored team name) in the coming years:
1. There are about a half-dozen NHL teams in the so-called “Sun Belt”; there are seven teams in Canada. If the league looks at those revenue streams individually, I strongly suspect that the seven Canadian teams – none of which made the playoffs this year – all dominate the “Sun Belt” teams. I have long been an advocate for a pro sports franchise in Las Vegas, but the fact of the matter is that Las Vegas is a “Sun Belt” venue.
2. The question for any expansion franchise is this:
Can it build a loyal fanbase?
The Black Knights claim to have more than 14,000 pledges for season tickets in hand. Their arena will seat 17,000 for hockey so even before the team formally exists, the arena is going to be about 82% full. Sounds good … Now the question morphs into something a bit different:
Is this wave of support sustainable? Is it based on the novelty of the NHL coming to Las Vegas or is there a core fanbase there for the long haul?
3. The Black Knights will be the 31st franchise in the NHL. Odd numbers for teams in a league are complicating factors. I would not want to be the guy who has to figure out how to schedule 31 teams for a season if there is a mandate that each team plays a balanced schedule. My intuition says that is not going to work. Ergo:
What does this franchise portend for the future NHL?
It would seem to me that finding a 32nd venue for a team would make life easier for the NHL. It would also seem to me that they should “follow the money” and put that new team in Canada. I am nowhere near conversant enough with Canadian economics and society to proclaim where the best place for a new NHL team might be, but here are cities that come to mind just based on travels in Canada:
Halifax: Population about 350K but geographically “inconvenient”.
Quebec City: Population about 500K but a team failed there in the past.
Regina: Convenient location but population is much smaller here
Saskatoon: Convenient location but population is smaller here.
Then there is always the option to put a team in “Southern Ontario” where there are sizeable population centers but there is also the presence of teams in Toronto, Detroit and Ottawa. Nonetheless, the municipalities of Mississauga, Brampton, London and Hamilton might be considered.
The Black Knights would begin play in the 2017/18 season. I hope it succeeds as a franchise because it might open the way to put the NFL and/or the NBA in Las Vegas too.
In my grazing around the Internet to find topics to rant on, I ran across two things related to the Olympics. The first had to do with the games in Rio and how spending on the athletic venues and on security have left some of the poverty areas there in really bad shape. The slums in Rio are called the favelas; if you do a “Google Images” search on “Rio favelas” you can see some pretty grim living conditions for huge numbers of people in extremely overcrowded conditions. Then do a “Google Images” search for “Rio de Janeiro Olympic venues”. If you flip from one to the other and recognize what might have been done with the billions of dollars that were spent on glitzy sports stadiums and on bribes and on corruption and on security, you will want to go and wash the hand that moved the mouse and clicked on the links to give you those images.
The other item related to the Olympics is depressing because of its silliness. The IOC is poised to approve a package of 5 new sports for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The Executive Board of the IOC in making these recommendations to the committee as a whole said that approving it would be the “most comprehensive evolution of the Olympics in modern history”. Given that description, one might expect some momentous recommendations here. You make the call:
Karate: OK, that is a martial art; it fits with the idea of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”; it has its origins in Okinawa which is part of Japan. No problem here …
Baseball/Softball: OK, that is a popular sport in Japan which is the host country but haven’t the Olympics been there before? “Evolution” implies a movement in the forward direction and this seems to be a movement back to the past
Skateboarding: Oh swell, another sport with judges handing out numerical scores to make it appear as if one skateboarder is better than the other one.
Surfing: Seriously, now … “Most comprehensive evolution…” You cannot be serious … [/ John McEnroe]
Sports Climbing: Now they are just making stuff up, right?
Oh, just wait… At some time in the future, they may expand this list to include “Synchronized Surfing” and “Team Sports Climbing”. I can’t wait.
Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times possibly foreshadowing yet another Olympic sport in the future:
“Eighteen two-man teams — wielding shovels, rakes and pick-axes — convened in plot 37A of a cemetery in Debrecen, Hungary, to take part in the national grave-digging contest.
“The winning team of Laszlo Toth and Janos Racz needed less than 34 minutes to card the day’s first 6-under.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………