Earlier today the NHL board of governors unanimously approved a new team for Las Vegas.
The announcement makes Sin City the 31st team of the NHL.
While several people are excited about the announcement, others are skeptical that an NHL team can succeed out in the desert.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver said the six NHL teams with the smallest fan base are in the southern and western United States. Las Vegas, he notes, currently has fewer fans than those cities.
Silver also said that the only sport Las Vegans seem to be interested in is basketball and that Las Vegas’ minor league teams have suffered from poor attendance for years.
This includes the Las Vegas Wranglers, an ECHL hockey team that was disbanded earlier this year due to poor attendance and a lack of a home arena.
A Home and a Backer
But the future Las Vegas NHL team already has a home, the newly-finished T-Mobile Arena with an overall capacity of 20,000.
They also have the full support of Bill Foley, who secured the team with a $500 million investment. Foley's also investing in the sport, not just the team.
Negreanu: Playoff beard gone.
Foley wants to build a practice rink that will also be used to help promote youth and high school hockey.
Foley also has the likes of dedicated fans like Daniel Negreanu, who’s been a vocal supporter of the team.
“I really respect Nate Silver and I think he’s a smart guy,” Negreanu says.
“And I’ll give him the point about basketball, but he’s really underestimating the tourism in this city.
“When teams like Calgary come and play, their fans are going to want to come down too. Who’s going to want to go on a guys’ trip to Columbus, Ohio to watch them play the Blue Jackets?
“It’s going to be much easier to convince your friends to come down to Vegas. It’s got the glitz and the glam."
If You Build It, They Will Come
When the skates finally hit the ice, Negreanu also thinks the number of fans will increase beyond Silver’s estimate of 91,000.
“San Jose didn’t have a hockey culture before the Sharks,” Negreanu said.
The T-Mobile Arena
“But look at them now. Las Vegas has a population of 2.2 million and a lot of them are going to get behind the team.”
While Las Vegas will have to work to grow its audience, other cities in the running for an NHL team already had a massive support base.
Quebec City also applied for the expansion and Silver estimates they have 530,000 fans. But Negreanu says fans are only part of the equation.
“I’d be happy to see a team in Quebec, they deserve one,” Negreanu said.
“But people shouldn’t be blaming Vegas for stealing it from Quebec. Quebec didn’t have their ducks in a row.
“You gotta get the money. Get the arena. Get the fan support. Guess what though, Quebec had no arena, no money.”
Rat Pack, Black Knights and Kessel
Kessel railing Negreanu at the 2014 One Drop
The upcoming NHL team, which will have its debut in the 2017-2018 season, also needs players and a name.
“I love the name Rat Pack because I think it just fits with the city,” Negreanu said.
“But I do know Bill Foley, the owner, he's a West Point guy.
“They’re the Black Knights and the name of his corporation is Black Knights. I think either Black Knights or Knights is very likely at this point.”
As for talent, Negreanu doesn’t think the city will have any trouble attracting players.
“My buddy Phil Kessel wants to play here already but I told him we're not ready for you yet,” Negreanu said.
“The thing is that this team will be good. Everyone's going to love to play in Vegas.
"First, no state tax. Second, it's Vegas!"