Tuesday, May 3, 2016 | 2 a.m.
This might be the month Las Vegas gets its first big-league sports franchise. If it does finally happen, those who have been waiting should be happy that prospective National Hockey League team owner Bill Foley didn’t know what he was getting into with the league that has seemingly been dragging its feet for months.
There’s been a lot of belief locally that an expansion announcement from the NHL is coming in the near future, and a source told TSN over the weekend to expect an announcement in mid-May. That is, if there’s an announcement at all.
Las Vegas’ pieces have been in place for a while now, yet Foley and the more than 13,000 fans who have made their season-ticket deposits still sit twiddling their thumbs. There’s hope, though, as one of the biggest hurdles was cleared late last week.
The timeline for setting up a franchise to compete in the 2017-18 season is rapidly coming to a close, with July 1 essentially as the drop-dead date. If they propose expanding, the 10-member executive committee would need to present the other owners with all of the details prior to the NHL’s entry draft on June 24-25, and realistically it needs to happen much sooner than that.
That’s why news last week that the league agreed to the terms of a possible expansion draft is a big deal. Working out the details of who from the league’s current 30 teams could be protected and who couldn’t was always a big issue that needed to be resolved with the NHL Players Association.
Now, we have an answer. Check out the details here, but the most important part for Vegas is simply that the deal was struck.
Whether the league would add one or two teams — Las Vegas and Quebec City are both in the mix — is unknown, but if it’s only one the bid would almost certainly belong to Vegas. A league official told the Sun on Monday there was nothing new to report on expansion, but the fact that there’s nothing official is nothing new.
It’s been a series of whispers and negotiations and Big Important Meetings that yield nothing but the status quo. Good or bad, there should soon be an answer for Vegas, and if Foley gets his team a lot of this frustration about the process will disappear by the time the first puck is dropped.
This is an easy one to root for, even if you have doubts about its long-term viability. T-Mobile Arena is hockey-ready and has been open nearly a month. There aren’t any debates about the public/private split of any financing or whether an owner is actually being sincere with the city.
Foley has been ready to pay the $500 million expansion fee for more than a year, something he might not have committed himself to had he known how long this process would take.
Back in October, Foley spoke at a dinner at Aria and told the crowd that he hoped to get a team “by January or February because we need that time to really get organized.” That deadline, obviously, has passed, just like a few other previous dates on the calendar that at one point felt destined to deliver Foley his franchise.
Now we approach another one, because if the calendar flips to June with no word from the league there could be at least some minor upheaval. Eventually, patience is going to run out, especially since the league has now laid out its plans for the expansion draft that Vegas would use to build its team.
Vegas has done, and continues to do, everything asked of it to make this dream a reality. It’s time for the NHL to respond in kind.