The NHL North American ice hockey league will expand to Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season after billionaire businessman Bill Foley was awarded the competition’s 31st franchise, but an expansion bid by Quebec City has been deferred indefinitely.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the decision after the league’s board of governors voted unanimously to take a team to the Nevada city.
“We think this is a tremendously exciting opportunity, not just for Las Vegas, but for the league as well,” said Bettman, who described Las Vegas as “a vibrant, growing, global destination city".
Foley – along with his fellow investors, former Sacramento Kings NBA basketball franchise owners Joe and Gavin Maloof – will pay an expansion fee of $500m (€441m). The team will play in the Pacific Division at the T-Mobile Arena, a new $375m venue that opened off the Las Vegas strip in April.
“We want everyone to be a fan,” Foley (pictured) said. “We're dedicated to it. We'll leave no stone unturned in our dedication, in our pursuit of hockey for Las Vegas, not just for our team, but for the community.” Foley added that with 14,000 season ticket deposits already submitted for the 17,500-seat rink, he expects 85 to 90 per cent of the crowd at home games to be season ticket-holders.
The name of the expansion franchise has not been decided yet. Foley added that an NFL American football franchise “would be great here.” He added: “They have a different fan base than we do. I don't think it will affect us.” The Oakland Raiders has held serious talks with the city’s leaders in recent months over relocating to Nevada.
Speaking about Quebec City’s efforts to secure a franchise, Bettman said: “There is no doubt as to the passion for hockey in Quebec City. There is no doubt as to the suitability of the Videotron Centre as a home for a team, and there is no doubt regarding the ownership credentials or the eagerness to own a team of Quebecor, which has been an outstanding partner. These components, the ones within the control of the Quebec City applicant, are first-rate.”
The NHL has been comprised of 30 teams since the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild began play in 2000, with those ownership groups paying $80m each for their franchises.