Thursday, June 23, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Bill Foley sidestepped a commemorative street sign reading “NHL Hockey Boulevard” to talk for a time about his hockey team.
Foley had just finished addressing a cluster of media after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s announcement that the league would expand to Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season. The site was Encore Ballroom 5, and that sign was lugged into the event by Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak. At a later date, maybe when the team name and logo is unveiled, the Strip will be named for Foley’s squad.
But for now, Foley is finally unshackled and able to talk specifics about the new team. We had a quick convo after all the hoo-hah, and here’s how it went:
I’ve been kind of harping on the challenges the team will have cutting into an entertainment market that’s already very, very competitive. How do you plan to cut through all of the options in Las Vegas and earn enough support to be successful?
We’re going to be involved in outreach in a big way, we’ll be involved with charities. We have our base of 14,000 (season-ticket) depositors and season-ticket holders already, and I know we can expand that base. When I get back to the office this afternoon, we will have sold a lot more tickets.
There were a lot of questions today about why Las Vegas was chosen as the only expansion city, ahead of Quebec, which has a very rich hockey tradition. What do you think about being chosen ahead of that city?
I love Quebec, and I hope our fans can be 50 percent as avid as those in Quebec. I wish them the best. I hope it happens for them someday. Quebec is a great city, a beautiful city.
There is already optimism that the team will be given every chance to be competitive sooner than later.
Yes, we are going to bring a really competitive team to the ice. We’re going to be very serious about that. This is not going to be a 10-year program. The future is now. We’re going to win right away.
Even though the arena is on the Strip, this franchise is going hard after locals, right?
We don’t feel like we are competing with the Strip. We are going to get our local residents to be our supporters. They are the ones who are going to come to watch us play hockey.
What’s next on your to-do list?
We probably try to find an assistant general manager. We need someone to come in soon and get us going in our hockey operations. We already have our front office, seven people on staff, who are in charge of ticketing and sponsorships and community outreach, digital media. That is all happening already. Anticipated that about a week ago and, we’re all staffed up. Now we need someone in hockey operations, someone who can head up our scouting for us — that’s a big deal. We need scouts all over the world.
What about a general manager before an assistant GM?
We want the assistant GM mostly for the scouting. That’s how important it is. But we already have a really good guy lined up as GM, who we like, who has a lot of experience. We just have a little more time to make that final decision. We need an assistant quickly.
Earlier, the commissioner used words like “intense” and “complicated” to describe this decision to expand to Las Vegas. Was there ever a point where you thought the league would decide not to expand to Las Vegas?
Well, there were times when it just seemed like we were being delayed. Things were going on, and going on, and going on, but the NHL had its own timeframe. They let us know, “Things are going well. They’re going fine, keep up the good work. You’ll be hearing soon.” So it was never a point that I thought they would tell us, “You’re not going to be successful.” That never happened, and our patience paid off.
You said earlier that Black Knights is your favorite nickname. Do you get the final call on the nickname, or does the league make that call? How will that decision be made?
Um (smiles), I’m going to be open-minded about the name and the team colors. But I am the majority owner (laughs). I paid a lot of money for that.