Just the other day, Brian Burke was asked about his thoughts on expansion to Las Vegas. His response will shed light on what many are thinking, as he said "there's a reason there's no teams there". The debate on whether Vegas can sustain a NHL team is highly controversial, but if anyone has read my past articles they know i'm not sold on the idea.
This is an executive expressing his opinions that hockey won't work in Nevada. Unfortunately many team officials are keeping their thoughts on the subject to themselves, so we won't be able to get a consensus on the thoughts of other teams' managements.
It seems that the NHL is the only major sports league in North America who is serious in bringing a team to Sin City, with the NBA showing minor interest. Burke is right in his statement that there's a reason there's no other teams there, and there are many. The NFL, MLB, and NBA have stayed away for many years, but why would the NHL be the ones to consider a gambling city in the middle of the desert ideal for hockey?
The city is hot, and for most of the year. Bettman and the NHL have tried the desert markets already, and as many people know, not one market in the sunbelt has turned a profit. If the city were to be rewarded a franchise, the arena is guaranteed to be full for the first season or two. But as seen with the attendance figures of most of the sunbelt teams, keeping the rink full over many seasons proves to be challenging. Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Tampa Bay have managed to fill their seats because of their great on ice product; however all three franchises still are in the red when it comes to financials. How can Las Vegas, which is built for the night life and entertainment, sustain a NHL franchise for the long haul?
Many people don't know that Vegas had a hockey team before, the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. The team had to fold because of a lack of arena lease and horrendous financial losses. Even with the help of casino's buying tickets, the team couldn't sustain itself in the desert city.
Empty seats are evident at a Las Vegas Wranglers game in Orleans Arena
Everyone has their own opinion on the subject, and mine is clear. I'm tired of non-traditional markets getting consideration for NHL franchises before the likes of Seattle and Quebec City, who are sure to be successful because of their hockey roots. If the bigger sports leagues of the NFL, NBA, and MLB are staying away, then the smaller NHL should take that as a warning. Many people will agree with me, and many will disagree, and as I said before this topic is highly debated. My point is, in the long haul a team in Vegas will just be another financial black hole for the NHL in the sunbelt.