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Bill Foley publicly updates efforts to bring NHL team to Las Vegas

Ticket commitments soar to more than 13,000 but potential team more than two seasons away

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L.E. Baskow

Bill Foley, the businessman trying to bring an NHL team to Las Vegas, joins Brian Blessing while answering questions for fans Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at Sunset Station.

Bill Foley Talks to Hockey Fans at Sunset Station

Bill Foley, the businessman trying to bring an NHL team to Las Vegas, answers questions for fans Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at Sunset Station. Launch slideshow »

Bill Foley switched off his internal mute function Wednesday night at Sunset Station.

The 70-year-old billionaire head of Hockey Vision Las Vegas had stayed relatively quiet over the last month while his group continued building toward landing an NHL expansion franchise at the Las Vegas Arena. He broke the silence by meeting with media and hosting a question and answer segment with about 50 fans during a showing of Game 6 of the NHL’s Western Conference finals at Club Madrid.

“I want the community to know that I’m here to answer questions,” Foley said. “I’m a part of the community. I’m embedded in the community. This is all a part of me getting in front of everyone so they can see I’m not some strange guy that’s going to sit back in an office somewhere.”

Foley snapped the pro-Chicago Blackhawks crowd's concentration on their team's 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks when he released the latest numbers from his organization's season-ticket drive. Foley reported they had secured 11,500 deposits to go with 1,000 commitments from corporations and 735 suite seats.

“To me, that’s a statement,” Foley said. “Our goal was 10,000, and we’re still selling tickets.”

He announced that half- and quarter-season packages are now available and should boost the figures.

The total sales of 13,200 tickets over the last three months left Foley “pleasantly surprised.” Preliminary market research made him believe Las Vegas was capable of the level of support, but he expected a bigger challenge in securing deposits for a team that’s purely hypothetical.

“Las Vegas has done its job,” Foley said. “Now we’ve presented the information to the league. I’m very confident, but we have to wait for the league to respond.”

Foley gave updates on far more than just tickets. Below are five other pieces of news he shared.

• Foley no longer views his long-stated goal of the team beginning play in the 2016-2017 season as feasible. He said, “It’s got to be ’17-18 right now. We can’t get ready for ’16 in time.”

• Foley expanded on plans to hold a fan vote to name the team. Everyone who purchases season tickets will be extended the opportunity to submit a name of their choice. “And we’re going to take the top 10 or so to the league and say, ‘Can we use these teams?’” Foley explained. He said the league would whittle down the choices before a final decision was made. Foley is set on the team colors — black, gold and gray — as well as using Las Vegas instead of Nevada in the name.

• Foley provided some insight on how he hopes to build the franchise. He’s consulted with several former NHL players and decided on hiring techniques. “We won’t have retreads,” Foley said. “We’re going to have young, aggressive players and we’re going to have young, aggressive coaches. It won’t be guys my age coaching. It’s going to be guys that are 40 years old coaching. We’re going to take assistant GMs and assistant coaches and move them up.”

He concluded, “People that know me know I don’t fail. We’re going to make this work.” Foley reiterated his previous goal of making the playoffs within three seasons and winning the Stanley Cup within eight.

• Foley has given a lot of thought to the setup of a practice facility, which will need to be constructed in a yet-to-be specified location. “NHL players usually practice about an hour and a half a day, then the ice is available,” he said. “It’s going to be available for leagues, youth hockey. We’re going to support it all the way. We’re going to help all that we can and the goal is to eventually have many more sheets of ice around the valley to help the development of youth hockey. In San Jose, it started and they had nothing going and now they have a vibrant youth hockey program. That’s how we’re going to build a franchise that’s going to be sustainable for 20-25 years.”

Foley has often cited the San Jose Sharks as an example to follow, but offered a few other markets in addition on Wednesday. “Tampa Bay has got a great program going,” he said. “The Predators have done a really good job, and the Ducks have done a great job. We’re going to go with that kind of model. We’re a new team and not in a traditional hockey market, so we’ve got to create a lot of buzz. That’s what we intend to do.”

• Foley won’t push to get an invite to the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting next month in Las Vegas, a gathering where some believe expansion will be discussed more in depth. Citing patience, he said he would let the process run its course and directed all questions on the meeting to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “I stand at the disposal of the league,” Foley said. “I haven’t been invited. I doubt that I’ll attend. If I’m asked, I’ll go but I doubt I will be asked.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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