Las Vegas is synonymous with gambling, and with the NHL expanding into the city fans of sports betting are left wondering what impact this will have on their ability to bet on NHL games. The biggest questions are regarding the integrity of the game. Moving into Las Vegas, which is ubiquitously known as “Sin City”, is going to raise those types of concerns. NHL Commissioner has been busy easing people’s worries; he’s been quoted as saying “Compared to say basketball or football, our game is less susceptible to gambling…” With this in mind those who engage in hockey betting can rest assured that there won’t be any tampering or rigging of games. The next question on the list is simple. How will a brand new NHL team fare this season?
Assembling a team from scratch won’t be the only concern facing the new Vegas team. The team’s unique location might sound auspicious at first, but last season showed that team’s in warmer locations tend to have a hard time selling tickets. The NHL teams that had the most attendance in the 2015-2016 season were Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary. What is interesting is that all of these teams missed the postseason, yet were still able to bring in a stable amount of fans. At the other end of the spectrum were Anaheim, Florida, and San Jose; all three of this teams made the playoffs, while the Sharks made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Even with those extraordinary performances each team averaged less than 17,000 fans per game. In the NHL wins don’t equate ticket sales. What’s even more befuddling is the fact that they chose Las Vegas over Quebec City, justifying this move by saying that Quebec City would’ve caused a geographical imbalance. There are currently 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and with the addition of the Vegas team there will now be 15 in the West. Hockey is a Canadian sport and Las Vegas cannot compete with the love that Canadians have for the game. Especially considering that Quebec lost its Nordiques back in 1995 and has yet to lose its hope of getting another team.
Quebec has the fans but unfortunately not the money. Vegas has a shiny new arena and Americans love everything new, so they should have no problem selling tickets early. But will they be able to sell tickets throughout the season? As mentioned before winning doesn’t mean that tickets will be sold, and this new team will have to pull the marketing scheme of the century to keep people interested in a country where hockey isn’t the number one sport. Without the early support of their nonexistent fans the Vegas team will have to contend with a home arena that will likely be filled with the visiting teams’ fans.
The team itself has yet to be assembled, or even named. Commissioner Gary Bettman is confident that his system for a 2017 expansion draft will allow the Vegas team to play competitively right out of the gate. Las Vegas is allowed to choose one player from each of the 30 teams. The existing teams will be protected by the fine print however; each team is allowed to protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie. They can also select to choose instead 8 players from one position and 1 goalie. Any player with a “no-movement” clause in his contract will be immune to the expansion draft. This system will allow most teams to retain their most valuable players.
The Vegas team will certainly have an uphill battle coming out of the gate. They will have to create a team from scratch and win the hearts of the people of Sin City. It’ll be interesting to see the effect this will have on sports betting, and fans of hockey betting can be sure that this will open up new ways to bet on NHL games.