AP Photo/John Locher
Next season, professional hockey in Las Vegas will no longer be just a dream. It will be a reality. Pop singer Katy Perry will soon be able to “Wake Up in Vegas,” and she will be able to go to an NHL hockey game.
I am a hockey fan that loves to travel to different venues, so I will be adding Las Vegas to my list of destinations for hockey games. When it comes to attending a hockey game and a casino in the same trip, I am the first one to sign up!
In all seriousness, many people are questioning whether professional hockey in Las Vegas will be a success. There are still plenty of unknowns as to how Vegas will be run and operated, and whether citizens of Vegas will accept something different like hockey. Will the citizens of Las Vegas become fans of something that may still be foreign to them? Will the citizens of Las Vegas accept some early growing pains and rough patches?
It is too early to tell if Las Vegas hockey will be a success. This is something fans may not find out until 10-20 years down the road. Many people can make predictions, but that is the only thing they can do at this point.
So, will hockey in Las Vegas work out? Here are some reasons why I think it will be a success:
PLENTY OF SEASON TICKETS HAVE SOLD
Vegas hockey season ticket sales have been good, probably better than expected. As of October, it has been reported that 16,000 season tickets have been sold. This is a good sign for Hockey in Las Vegas. The first key to success for a new franchise is to grow a stable fanbase.
Another thing Las Vegas will have going for them is plenty of corporate backing. Las Vegas has plenty of casinos and hotels that will likely sponsor the hockey club in a variety of ways. With many of the seats purchased, and plenty of corporate backing, Vegas will have the financial income to support a hockey club.
VEGAS IS A GREAT TRAVEL DESTINATION
Even if you live on the East Coast, flights to Las Vegas are generally affordable. If you plan to take a trip to Las Vegas in the future, you can also take in other hockey venues while out West. Staples Center (Los Angeles Kings) and Honda Center (Anaheim Ducks) are two venues that are within a 4-hour drive to Las Vegas. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone, as Staples Center is one of my favorite venues to visit in the NHL.
RESIDENTS WILL HAVE SOMETHING OF THEIR OWN
The residents of Las Vegas have never had any major professional sport in town. There has been no NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL team that has called Vegas home.
Out of the major professional sports leagues, the NHL is the first one that is going to gamble on Vegas. The NFL may soon follow suit if the Oakland Raiders decide to relocate to Las Vegas.
There is an incentive for the residents of Las Vegas to accept the new NHL franchise. Any diehard hockey or sports fan that lives in Las Vegas will finally have something to attend that is not a casino or live show.
The location of an arena means a lot to the people that live in the respective town. Ask the Arizona Coyotes fans about location.
T-Mobile Arena is 2 miles away from McCarran International Airport, and very close by to some of the notable hotels in Vegas. It is in the heart of the city, and surrounded by many people.
From the pictures and videos I have seen, the arena sparkles and grabs your attention. It was constructed specifically for hockey, and that adds to its luster.
The new Las Vegas franchise will most likely take some bumps over the next few seasons. After the expansion draft ends, Vegas will be challenged to have a competitive product on the ice.
Fans want to see their favorite teams win. Vegas will likely receive some decent players during the expansion draft, but not many headliners. Their management will be trying to build their prospect pool over the next 3-5 years.
It is important for the new Vegas franchise to market well in the respective market. They need to convince the citizens to come out and support the new franchise, instead of going to the casino to gamble. They need to sell a “retool” on the fly, as they will most likely struggle in their first couple of seasons.
Building an organization from the ground up is not easy. Las Vegas will take their bumps as a franchise early on. It is important for their management to stay patient with the process. They will need to draft good young players for the future, and they will need to manage the salary cap well. If they are able to build strong fan support, and improve their product on the ice overtime, more and more fans will flock to Las Vegas hockey.
By: George Foussekis