With the announcement of the NHL expanding into Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season, the process starts for owner Bill Foley and his team. Finding a General Manager, head coach, staff for on and off the ice, as well as getting a team name. On top of that, Foley will need to purchase and find a location for the team’s AHL affiliate.

“We run a separate process, but if Mr. Foley was approved by the NHL, I would think he wouldn’t have to go through an extensive process,” said AHL commissioner David Andrews to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Mr. Andrews also estimated the cost of the team for purchase would be around $5 million.

Once approved, the next part is the location. Foley has said that he would want the AHL team to be close, which means we’ll have an addition to the Pacific Division of the AHL– which may also mean that it could finally even out the number of games across the board for the western segment of the AHL.

But where will Foley go? What options would be close enough for Las Vegas, but also be a successful hockey market that will be able to grow? It’s not impossible for the AHL team to stay very close by playing in Las Vegas, a model that has happened in Toronto, San Jose, and Winnipeg. With the proposed practice facility having enough seating for the AHL’s liking, the team could very well end up there. Yet, it’s may not be what’s best for business having both teams in the same market that isn’t a traditional hockey market and may not have the clout to support both an NHL and AHL team. Should Foley want to keep the team in-state, the Reno area could be a better option and would allow them to have their own identity. The one problem that could arise might be sharing the Reno Events Center with the NBA D-League’s Reno Bighorns, thus killing some weekend dates for the AHL team.

Should Foley want to go out of Nevada altogether, he could look toward the Fresno market, which has been without minor league hockey since the Fresno Falcons folded midway through the 2008-09 season. The reason the team folded was due to the lack of corporate sponsorship and support from the locals as their attendance dropped from 5,035 in 2007-08 to 3,284 in their short time in 2008-09. It could be worrisome that the last team couldn’t get local support, but with the boom of hockey in California and the success that the AHL has had in the first year moving west, the people of Fresno may look at hockey differently these days.

There are many that have suggested that maybe Salt Lake City, Utah could be a destination for the AHL team, but it may take a big deal in order to make the Utah Grizzlies move up to the AHL or move out of the market entirely. When asked about it earlier in the year, Grizzlies CEO Kevin Bruder said that the team was happy in the ECHL. Bruder told the Salt Lake Tribune, “If the opportunity arose, we would obviously look at it, but with the understanding that we would do what’s best for our organization and what’s best for Utah.”

While this decision is probably not an easy one, Foley hasn’t been going wrong yet in the process. He and his staff have probably weighed the options and will go to the right people after that to see what they could propose. Who knows, it may be none of the above options and he finds a diamond in the rough in another city. Right now, all we can do is sit and wait.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Fresno is the best bet the Falcons had been around for 62+years before bad business decisions Led to the demise of a wonderful relationship with local hockey fans there is currently to hockey size arenas in Fresno selling to Reena and the save Mart Center located on the Fresno State University campus both have new boards and updated scoreboards Andy’s top practice facility bring on Vegas we’re anxious???

  2. Riverside City, CA is the diamond in the rough. Roughly 320,000 in population plus 50,000 college students. Riverside City is home to 3 universities, one community college located centrally in the pacific division of the AHL. Riverside has its own airport, railways and 3 major freeways not only making travel in the division easy but travel up and down to Las Vegas shorter than any of the other options. Riverside is looking at building a new state of the art multi-purpose events center located downtown right next to its convention center. In addition would be two new hotels in the ever growing downtown area. Riverside is the 12th largest city in California and 59th nationwide. See the attached video:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3TrN0oqBVmk

    This is Foley’s diamond in the rough.

  3. Fresno is a no brainer….It is located in a city with a rich history of Hockey and has the 55th tv market share in the country. It has Selland Arena available at 7200 seats and SMC at over 13,800 available too at Fresno State campus. With that market share and nonstop flights to Las Vegas….its a no brainer.

  4. Salt Lake City…..all the way! 54 minute flight with three airline carrier options. 10,000 + seat arena with a solid/support season ticket holder base. City was an original IHL affiliate for the Flames, NY Islanders, and an AHL affiliate for the Stars and Coyotes. Our ECHL CEO pushed that article in attempt to deter AHL interest, knowing that Vegas was getting the NHL expansion. Local fans have supported the Utah Jazz for years, AAA baseball, and MLS soccer. Not to mention top five to top ten attendance in the ECHL (with average talent and a tough on ice product to watch). Long time hockey fans here would love to see the AHL talent and prospects back in town!

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