The return of Las Vegas hockey to the desert has been a goal of city councilpersons ever since the Wranglers, a mid-level professional ice hockey team that played in the ECHL, departed town in 2014.
Local politicians, along with a joint venture between the MGM Grand and AEG, are betting heavily on acquiring the city’s first major professional sports team, building the 20,000-seat Las Vegas Arena located just west of the Strip between New York-New York and Monte Carlo at a cost of $350 million.
The New York Post reported this week that Sin City has finally found its match by way of the Arizona Coyotes, a struggling NHL franchise who had the second-worst record in the entire league last season and ranked 28 out of 30 teams in attendance.
After the Glendale, Arizona, city council voted to terminate its 15-year, $225 million agreement with the club, rumors circulated the team would move to Vegas.
“Las Vegas has reached 10,000 season ticket deposits,” a source tells the NY Post, an adequate number to justify bringing in a franchise. “The NHL is arranging the sale of the Arizona Coyotes to billionaire William Foley, who will move the team to Las Vegas,” Post reporter Josh Kosman writes.
Officials for both the NHL and Coyote are adamantly denying those claims. “The Post was told the story was completely untrue,” Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner told FOX Sports Arizona. “They ran it anyway. The story is garbage. Team is staying put.”
Coyotes co-owner and CEO Anthony LeBlanc also refuted the story, saying the Post is “100 percent false” and, “I’m not an unidentified source, I’m a principal, so I think I should know.”
While league and team officials firmly denying that the Coyotes are moving would seem to have more credibility than the Post’s faceless sources, if they are indeed relocating, they would have much incentive to keep that knowledge out of the public.
The rumored move wouldn’t take place until the 2016-2017 season, as the Las Vegas Arena won’t be completed until next spring.
With the team’s lease at the Gila River Arena terminated, finding a suitable home for only a one-year period would be difficult, and that’s not to mention attracting fans who know the team isn’t committed to staying and has underperformed for the last three seasons.
Sports Betting Icing
For years, major sports teams from the big four, Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Basketball Association, and National Hockey League, have avoided Sin City due to preconceived risks associated with legal sports betting in Las Vegas.
All four leagues have concrete anti-gambling policies, strictly forbidding its members from engaging in any form of gambling relating to sports.
But the mood on those policies seems to be changing, albeit slowly. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is leading the charge, saying in a recent New York Times op-ed “times have changed” and “sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight.”
And sunlight shines bright on the Strip, with perhaps the brisk cool ice rink ready for a little Vegas heat.