Multiple reports suggest that the NHL has decided to add two western teams via expansion, with one of those landing in Las Vegas. And in fact the NHL has reportedly settled on an ownership group for the Vegas team: William Foley and the notorious Maloof family. Yes, the Maloof family that ostracized itself from the NBA last year and sold its team, the Sacramento Kings, under pressure.
As a Kings fan who suffered through the multi-year Maloof ordeal and saw their ownership style up close, I must say: don't do this, hockey.
The Maloofs were the least stable franchise holders in NBA memory, which is saying something. George Shinn of the New Orleans Hornets nearly went upside-down after Katrina, and there were rumors he wouldn't make payroll at one point. (The NBA would likely never have let that happen.) But never did Shinn inspire as little confidence as the Maloofs did over four years at the end of their reign of terror. And lest you think this is salty emotions from a fan who nearly lost his team to relocation multiple times, consider how David Stern, the NBA's now-retired commissioner, felt about the Maloofs.
Stern took the lead on the Sacramento arena issue in 2006, assigning staff and resources to the problem. The Maloofs got in the way at every turn. Eventually, the NBA threw its hands up and in 2011 it appeared the Kings would be moved to Anaheim. Only a Herculean effort by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson stopped it and bought the city time. The Maloofs even took some credit for choosing one more try in Sacramento over a southern move. They consented to let Stern negotiate the deal to stay.
A year later, after Stern, Johnson and an outside group (AEG) had negotiated a sane arena deal, and weeks after the Maloofs had cried tears of joy over it on television, George Maloof very publicly trashed it in a New York City conference room with Sacramento TV cameras streaming it. He claimed the deal would bankrupt Sacramento all while arguing the Maloofs needed more money out of it. He pissed off Stern so thoroughly that Stern devoted most of his press conference that day to expressing anger at the Maloofs.
The family had the temerity to say they'd worked with Sacramento officials to refine the plan. Instead, reports showed they immediately sought out arena deals in Virginia Beach, Las Vegas and Seattle. Eventually, they reached a deal to sell the club to Seattle native Chris Hansen (a figure in NHL expansion talks) for $500 million. And Sacramento fought back as the league declined the Maloofs' sale agreement and Stern strong-armed them into selling to a Sacramento-based group.
All the while the Maloofs stripped the Kings of value, running out one of the consistently worst teams in the NBA. Sacramento fans were the first in the league to deeply understand the nuance team payroll floor operates out of necessity. While other in-state rivals were building super teams of the future, the Maloofs were spending as little as possible, letting the arena fall into disarray and filming episodes of Real Housewives of Beverley Hills based around the perceived dangers of attending Kings games for the family members. The Maloofs lied consistently to everyone, not just fans or the mayor, but to other NBA team owners, to the commissioner, to everyone. This was a real-life version of Major League, presented without irony for four years.
Money talks, I know. But the NHL seems to be in good shape, with strong aspirations as a league. Why hitch your apple cart to such an unstable, manipulative, proven-to-be-awful-at-running-a-sports-team bunch? The Maloofs aren't even rich by Vegas standards! They are known buffoons whose very name is now associated in the sports world with foolishness. Isn't the NHL better than that?