There’s a season ticket drive unofficially underway for an NHL team that doesn’t exist yet. It will be “official” in a week.
This has happened at least a couple times before.
Jim Balsillie had been approved by the NHL Board of Governors as the new owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006. When it was apparent the NHL attached last minute conditions to the sale, including restrictions on the ability to move the team, Balsillie backed out of the deal.
The Penguins are doing well in Pittsburgh now, starting the current season on a 334-game sellout streak with a season ticket waiting list hovering around 9,000 people.
Shortly after dropping out of the Penguins deal, Balsillie began working to buy the Nashville Predators.
That’s when he took, in two days, a rumored 14,000 season ticket deposits for an NHL team playing in the former Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario. That move also likely sealed his fate for further attempts at buying an NHL franchise such as the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Predators are doing less well, financially, than the Penguins but are lately killing it on the ice. Today the Preds are leading the NHL with 70 points. One thing (winning) leads to the other (attention) which leads to revenue.
Having relinquished their team to Phoenix in 1996, Winnipeg made a few attempts at bringing an NHL team back.
True North made some unsuccessful runs at relocating the Phoenix Coyotes, ultimately succeeding with a purchase of and subsequent relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to play in their new government aided arena.
Prior to the purchase, True North sponsored a “Drive to 13,000” to pre-sell 13,000 season ticket packages to demonstrate interest in NHL hockey. They were successful, and the Jets are now sold out every game, albeit in the NHL’s smallest venue. The Jets are having their best year since the Thrashers days, currently hanging on to a wild card spot for the playoff.
There’s been buzz about NHL hockey coming to Las Vegas for years. Since the buzz started, MGM and AEG formed a partnership to build a privately funded arena on the Las Vegas Strip designed for hockey and basketball.
Construction is proceeding on the arena with noticeable progress every day.
William Foley is the front man for the proposed Las Vegas NHL ownership group that reportedly includes the Maloof family. He’s earned his considerable money and happens to bottle wine for Wayne Gretzky.
In the past two months, more information is being dribbled to the public while the NHL maintains there have been no concrete negotiations.
The NHL Western Conference is two teams short, leading most non-partisan people to believe that expansion rather than relocation will bring two new NHL teams to Seattle and Las Vegas.
An ad ran in Las Vegas during the Super Bowl.
NHL Commissioner Bettman offered his take on a Las Vegas ticket drive to USA Today:
“We don’t think Seattle and Quebec City need to do that,” Bettman said. “But everybody thinks about the nature of the Las Vegas market on a whole host of levels, including when people work and don’t work. People have questions.”
So, a ticket drive is scheduled to begin February 10. Foley says they have committed to the NHL the tickets would be priced at the league average.
William Foley states his group has spent a couple million dollars, everything has been cleared with the NHL, and that their goal is to sell a minimum 10,000 season tickets.
“… and if we sell those 10,000 season tickets we are very confident we’ll be awarded a franchise.”
People in Foley’s position usually sound confident, so putting too much weight behind his clear statement they group would be awarded a franchise if the 10,000 ticket mark is reached would be foolhardy.
It would, however, also be foolhardy to dismiss the likelihood of an NHL team residing in Las Vegas sooner rather than later. One only need look at MGM and AEG as the organizations building the arena. Both organizations have strengths and successful experience with NHL hockey teams.
There has been no mention of a deadline for the “sale” of the season tickets. Nobody imagines the demand for tickets will exceed the stampede of demand that Winnipeg enjoyed with their drive.
Las Vegas was built on discretionary income. It’s the industry there.
We’ll know soon enough how much demand is there for NHL hockey.