Las Vegas Greed
It seems lost on the general public that on the same day Las Vegas had record setting heat, highs of 113 degrees, heat warnings galore, and 120+ degrees in the nearby desert, there was an expansion draft being held for the new expansion hockey team that starts playing this fall in the NHL, the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Ripped right from weather.gov. Today.
One of the drums Beacon of Speech has been beating on lately is why in the hell did Qatar get the World Cup in 2022? Again, a summer soccer tournament, in the desert, in a country smaller than Chicago (population wise), who has never qualified for a World Cup?
Before I bitch about Qatar some more, I need to look at the absurdity in my own backyard. Why in the hell is the NHL putting a hockey team, in the desert, in the 40th largest TV market (smaller than the Grand Rapids metroplex), who didn't even support their AA Minor League hockey team the Las Vegas Wranglers, who folded in 2014?
The short answer is flat out greed. Las Vegas is one of the largest markets without one of the four major sports. I remember, just a few years ago, professional sports pundits said Vegas would never have a pro sports team due to gambling. Vegas didn't change, they're still the Gambling Capital of North America. Gambling changed. Lotteries expanded. Casinos expanded. In my town of 30,000, we now have Internet Cafes, basically street level casinos. As America embraced casino money, the major sports league started to flirt with Vegas.
Now we'll start outside the Big 4. NASCAR is already in Vegas. College Basketball used to be the king of sports in Vegas in the 80's and 90's. College Football is an afterthought with the UNLV Rebel. And Soccer? The MLS argument should be a this simple: See Qatar argument.
Not 100 years ago, not 50 years ago, not even 10 years ago, there were no discussions of a hockey team in Las Vegas. In the distant past, due to the desert issue and in the last generation due to the gambling issue. Somehow Gary Bettman mind-tricked the other owners that an expansion team in Vegas is the best option for the NHL.
Now, giving Bettman the benefit of the doubt that he doesn't deserve, if you wanted to move one of the two LA teams to Vegas, I could be talked into that. That's only a 4 hour drive and I contend you don't need 2 hockey teams in LA. If you wanted to move the Arizona Coyotes to Vegas, that would have been the move that made the most sense for the game of hockey. Take a struggling franchise in Arizona and move it 5 hours away, through the desert, to the Arizona/Nevada Border, where the NHL would basically be the biggest fish in a small pond. I understand the allure of Vegas as an option for your entertainment dollar, not unlike Cirque du Soleil.
The problem is, Gary Bettman has no common sense. Instead of two teams in Toronto, arguably the hockey capital of the World, he is putting 2 teams on the edge of the Sonoran Desert. I understand why he, and the owners, want that mega-expansion lump sum deal ($500 MILLION), but there were better options than an expansion team in Vegas.
Which reminds me, about 5 minutes after the Golden Knights announced their decision, Mark Davis of the Oakland Raiders realized that he was in a rare position to make a good decision. Mark Davis didn't want to be the second banana in the Bay Area, and he didn't want to be the second banana in Los Angeles. Once he saw Vegas as a legitimate option, where he could own the town, he leapt at it. So the Golden Knights basically have a 2-year head start before the Las Vegas Raiders take over.
The NFL wouldn't be strong armed into Vegas Expansion, they went the relocation route. Usually I am against relocation (96% of the time by my calculations), but Oakland to Vegas makes sense. The NFL expands their footprint, while keeping a presence in the Bay Area. Some idiot from Oakland compared the Raiders to Las Vegas move as the same as the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore move. Sorry, not the same. Oakland is under an hour away from San Francisco. Besides, the 49ers aren't even in San Francisco anymore, they're in Santa Clara. If you're pissed that the Raiders are moving, become a 49ers fan. When the Browns moved, there was no team in Akron to root for.
Returning to the weather, Raiders in December, not too bad in Las Vegas. The Stanley Cup is in June, arguably the only worse city to have it in would be Phoenix. (Who am I kidding? Las Vegas won't be there for a generation. The Arizona Coyotes still have never been to the Stanley Cup, dating back to when they were formed as the Winnipeg Jets 37 years ago.)
I would be remiss not to mention the NBA. I need to make a prediction. Whiny players already moan that they have to play in Minneapolis, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. They all want to play in New York and L.A. Look for one of the current NBA teams from the North to be in Vegas within 5 years.
Editors Note: Too Late - Read Here
"I still don't understand why the NHL in the Southwest American States is bad."- The Average Fan
Alright, I contend that the NHL is not in a great position for the future. In order to have a strong NHL, you need strong Canadian teams, at least a third of the league. Right now, including Vegas, you have 24 teams in America and 7 in Canada. There are nine teams south of the Mason-Dixon line. The NHL cannot survive with the competition it gets from the other leagues, pro and college, with eroding support in Canada as Gary Bettman continues to dilute the hockey product for short term gain. The NHL makes $200 million a year in TV rights, the NFL $3 BILLION A YEAR IN TV RIGHTS. Once the sports market gets saturated, I contend it will be hockey that suffers in non-traditional markets. Hockey in Toronto, Detroit, and New York will be okay, but if there's a blip on the radar, the NHL will have too much dead weight on it to survive in its current form.