Sure, a lot of us are spending our leisure time going to the beach, but it was a busy week in the NHL. On Wednesday, the league made official what many had speculated for a while now: The NHL’s first expansion team since 2000 would be from Las Vegas.
The team led by principal owner Bill Foley will begin play in the 2017-18 season in the Western Conference (duh), bringing the NHL to 31 teams. There had been rumors that Quebec City would get a team, but the league decided to defer the Quebec application. NHL commish Gary Bettman said the Quebec arena and ownership group was strong, but the decision to defer had more to do with the weakness of the Canadian dollar (currently worth 77 cents American, although it was as low as 68 cents in October; in July 2011, it was worth $1.04 American) than anything else. The next expansion team will likely be another Western city to even out the conferences at 16 apiece, but Quebec has to be a good option should a struggling Eastern Conference team (that perhaps rhymes with Shmarolina) need to relocate.
Meanwhile, there has been plenty of buzz about the new Vegas team, which will be the first pro franchise to come to Sin City. I’m still a little skeptical about the city’s ability to develop a solid fan base given the transient nature of its populace at any given time, but Vegas certainly was able to generate a lot of support for its cause, with over 15,000 season ticket deposits already in hand.
Next summer, the league will hold an expansion draft to populate the new team, so the other 30 teams will have a year to prepare and figure out who stays and who is allowed to go. Clubs can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters (offense or defense) and one goalie. Anyone with a no-movement clause must be protected, and all first- and second-year players and unsigned draft choices are exempt from the draft.
The other big questions about the new team are what will it be called and what will the uniforms look like? This has been a surprisingly popular question; even Boston sports talk radio, which normally only pays attention to hockey when the Bruins are doing well or poorly, devoted a fair amount of airtime to speculation about possible names for the fledgling franchise. Supposedly owner Foley favors Black Knights, but there are many possibilities (Aces, Gamblers, Swingers). The great Uni Watch blog held a reader contest to design possible uniforms, and some of them are pretty excellent.
The week’s other big Las Vegas-related news was the annual NHL Awards show, which is a fairly preposterous event. But the winners were as follows:
- Hart (MVP): Patrick Kane, Chicago
- Norris (best d-man): Drew Doughty, LA
- Calder (best rookie): Artem Panarin, Chicago
- Vezina (best goalie): Braden Holtby, Washington
- Selke (best defensive forward): Anze Kopitar, LA
- Adams (best coach): Barry Trotz, Washington
- Lindsay (best player, voted by players): Kane
- Art Ross (highest scorer): Kane
- Lady Byng (most gentlemanly): Kopitar
- Masterton (perseverance and sportsmanship): Jaromir Jagr, Florida