BY ANDREW BENNY
The National Hockey League (NHL) will be up to 31 teams for the 2017-2018 season with the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights, a team that is going to end up being anything but “golden” for the league.
This was an opportunity for the NHL to make a change that could have been a potential fix to the financial problems being experienced by other teams throughout the league, but by bringing in an entirely new franchise, instead of moving one, that chance has been wasted.
According to annual NHL evaluations done by Forbes, six teams have recorded negative financial numbers over the last two years. This could perhaps be attributed to an off-season or low attendance, but then there are the cases of teams like the Florida Panthers, who have hemorrhaged $154 million since 1998, or the Phoenix Coyotes who literally had to be bought back by the league itself when previous owner Jerry Moyes thrust the team into bankruptcy.
How can the league not take a look at teams such as them, or the recently struggling Carolina Hurricanes, and think that a move to the new, bigger, untapped and more excitable market that is Las Vegas isn’t the right call?
After all, Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee said in a statement that the team “had already sold an excess of 14,000 tickets for the upcoming season,” so the interest is clearly there. But the answer to why not move a team, is the same thing it always is: money.
The Knights will be the first professional sports team to ever call the entertainment capital of the world home and were only made possible by billionaire, philanthropist owner William Foley, who purchased the rights to an NHL expansion for $500 million. Keep in mind that only 11 teams already in the league are valued at or above that price. That $500 million goes directly into the pockets of the 30 other teams owners. Plus, since it is them and the NHL’s board of governors who vote on whether to allow a team to move or be allowed into the league, the choice was obvious.
Besides the financial blunder of creating a whole new team, it is also a painful process for fans everywhere. Expansion drafts are entertaining, but only until your team loses one of it key players. This is something that is becoming a frighteningly real nightmare for many a hockey viewer as the Vegas expansion draft day, set for June 18, draws closer.
As if to justify the poorly timed move, McPhee and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman believe the team will be competitive right away, and are being extremely vocal about how they expect to see a lot of success from the franchise immediately.
“We’re going to build an organization and a team that people will be proud of and we’re going to do it quickly and we’re aiming at a Stanley Cup,” McPhee said at his inaugural press conference.
The NHL hasn’t seen a new team introduced since the debut of the Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000, nor has it ever seen an expansion team contend for a playoff spot in the first season – ever. But hey, who knows.
Expansion itself is not the root of the problem. The NHL just needs to be focusing on creating and ensuring a solid financial backing for teams and players already in the league. The league’s board of governors should realize it would be more prudent to fix what they have, rather than bring something entirely new to the ice.