NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman discusses the possibility of a Las Vegas franchise on Monday, June 23. (FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Monday said the biggest obstacle to bringing a hockey franchise to Las Vegas is a suitable venue.
Bettman, in town for the 2014 NHL Awards at Wynn Las Vegas, addressed the fact that MGM Resorts International recently broke ground on a 20,000-seat arena to be located along the Las Vegas Strip.
While Bettman, not one to speculate with the media, wouldn't confirm anything, he did offer a ray of hope, acknowledging Las Vegas is an attractive city. Still, he's not sure Sin City is viable.
"The answer is we don't know. People like to come here, but in terms of putting a franchise here, it's not something we're ready to address right yet," Bettman said.
Bettman has expanded to non-traditional hockey markets with varying levels of success. The Florida Panthers, located in Sunrise, have struggled to fill seats. The Phoenix Coyotes have had well-documented struggles with ownership that appear to be solved. The Atlanta Thrashes in 2011 pulled up stakes and moved to Winnipeg.
Bettman said that ownership is the most important factor in a team's success. Film and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer has expressed interest in owning and locating a team in Las Vegas.
"The most important elements for any franchise are the market, the building and the ownership - perhaps that's the most important. When people like Jerry Bruckheimer are interested in owning a franchise, obviously we love to hear those expressions of interest," Bettman said.
The NHL's elite players gathered on the Las Vegas Strip ahead of the awards show seemed enthusiastic about the idea, if a little bit amused by it.
"Obviously there's a lot of entertainment things in this town, and hockey would be a great addition, of course," New York Rangers forward Dominic Moore said.
"I think it'd be great. Any time you can expand the game and add more teams and just kind of grow the game across the country, that always helps. There's tons of kids, people growing up in warm states, cold states - doesn't matter - they all love hockey," Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny Dekeyser said.
Hall of Fame inductee Ted Lindsay, who will hand out the award that bears his name, is confident the game would consistently draw a crowd in Las Vegas.
"It's the greatest game in the world - let's start there. What I say is if you've got enough people, if you've got 18,000 to 20,000 people to show up for the greatest game in the world, then yes, Las Vegas is the right place," Lindsay said.
Ryan Getzlaf, who captains the Anaheim Ducks, has benefited from the spoils of a team located in a non-traditional market.
"That would make for an interesting road trip," Getzlaf said. "It would be a tough building to play in, I'll give you that. Where we are, it's a hot climate. Much the same as this [Las Vegas], there's much to compete with and we survive where we are."
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop echoed Getzlaf's opinion.
"I think they'd have home ice advantage over the rest of the league. It'd be fun to come here and play. It's such an exciting city. I'm sure a lot of guys would love to be here," Bishop said.
One of the more recognizable players in town, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, said a Las Vegas team would require a balance of the right ownership and team development.
"I'd have a tough time believing any team's gonna have a good record coming to Las Vegas. It'd be cool. I wouldn't rule out any possibilities. If things are going right and there are smart decisions along the way, I think hockey can thrive in a lot of different markets. I don't know a lot about this city other than what happens on the Strip, but you gotta think that people would be interested to come and watch hockey," Toews said.
The 2014 NHL Awards is set for Tuesday at 4 p.m.
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