The NHL has taken another step closer toward expansion into Las Vegas, as the New York Post is reporting that William Foley and the Maloof Family have been chosen as the prospective owners of the future franchise.
The league has yet to determine when expansion will take place, but it is believed that two Western franchises will be brought into the fold in order to round out the NHL's uneven alignment. Las Vegas will reportedly be one of those teams.
The Post is reporting that the addition of a Las Vegas franchise still requires the approval of NHL owners. That might be an easy sell in the event that the reported $400 million expansion fee -- a total that is split among the league's 30 owners -- is accurate.
As a point of reference, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild generated an $80 million expansion fee in 2000, according to the New York Post.
This latest report corroborates a report from The Hockey News that stated that the ownership group of Foley-Maloof had already been approved by the NHL board of governors at their last meeting, via The Hockey News:
Nobody knows exactly where the NHL is when it comes to Las Vegas as a landing spot, but it's clear the league is further down the road there than it is with any other potential cities. In fact, one of my sources who has knowledge of the inner workings of the NHL board of governors said the board secretly and very quietly at its last meeting approved Foley and Maloof as owners of a Las Vegas expansion franchise that will begin play in 2017-18.
Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, denied these reports and told The Hockey News that the NHL had no discussions about expansion or Las Vegas as a potential tenant of expansion at the latest board of governors meeting.
However, that doesn't mean the NHL hasn't had any Las Vegas expansion talks.
As Michael Russo aptly notes in the lead sentence of his report on the NHL in Las Vegas, "The National Hockey League clearly is intrigued by potentially becoming the first of the four major professional sports leagues to put a team in Las Vegas."
Russo quotes Daley at length about the steps the NHL has taken to determine whether Las Vegas is a viable market for professional hockey and noted that Daley had met with a potential ownership group, toured the site where the prospective arena would go (the arena is projected to be completed in 2016) and surveyed the locals on whether a sports team could thrive there.
Daley explained that the league would likely request that the Las Vegas franchise's games be removed from the sports books to dissuade the threat of gambling directly creeping into the arena, via The StarTribune:
"It's really more a visceral rationale than anything else," Daly said. "You don't want guys in the stands with bet tickets in their hands and the only reason they're watching the game is so they can cash in on a bet afterwards. That's not an environment you want to foster or create as a professional sports league."
For many the question of expansion is not a matter of if, but when.
Media reports about Las Vegas have increased as of late, which raises the old if there's smoke, then there must be fire cliché. For now, Foley, Maloof and Las Vegas have been catapulted to the forefront of expansion talks. Seattle, Quebec City and Markham all remain firmly on the perimeter, at least in the speculative sense.