The National Hockey League has a new home.
The super wealthy and powerful in the world didn’t ascend to that elitist level by taking no for an answer as by hell of high water, they will get what they want. For years Mark Davis sat by and watched his father Al battle with the City of Oakland and Alameda County in order to procure a new stadium for his Oakland Raiders which never came to fruition. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is currently the second oldest stadium that is in use by a National Football League franchise and by far it is home to the worst facilities in the league. Since moving back to Oakland in 1995, the Raiders have shared the Coliseum with the Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball. The stadium is a relic, a dinosaur, an eye sore; whatever that you want to refer to it as compared to the more modern facilities. And after failed bids by Davis and the Raiders to get a new stadium in Oakland, along with being unable to move into the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California with the San Francisco 49ers, or back to Los Angeles which was their home from 1982-1994, the NFL has given him free reign to seek out another city that will give him what he wants.
And that is exactly what Davis has done as he’s been on a barnstorming tour seeking a new home for his team. San Antonio, Texas welcomed Davis with open arms as they are seeking a National Football League franchise after hosting the New Orleans Saints for three games in 2005 at the Alamodome when they were dispersed due to Hurricane Katrina. St. Louis, Missouri has been somewhat interested in the Raiders after they recently lost the Rams to Los Angeles marking the second time since 1987 that they’ve lost an NFL franchise. But San Antonio and St. Louis haven’t courted the Raiders in the same fashion that Las Vegas, Nevada currently is.
Las Vegas has been called “Sin City” and for some people it is referred to as the entertainment capitol of the world as it is littered with bright lights, showgirls, and casinos galore. For a very long time Las Vegas has sought to have a professional sports franchise to call its own, but being that gambling is legal in the State of Nevada, pro leagues have been reluctant to set up shop there.
The closest that Vegas has come to having a professional sports franchise would be the Las Vegas 51s who are the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets. Las Vegas has also hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 2007, along with exhibition games for the Athletics and Los Angeles Kings. But the major professional sports leagues have been unable to look past the legal gambling aspect of the city.
However that could be changing as Davis has been in talks with officials in Las Vegas to bring his Raiders there. And unlike the efforts of his father to move the Raiders, the younger Davis has the blessing of the National Football League.
There is a possibility that the Raiders could secure 42-acres of land in Vegas where they are hopeful that a 65,000-seat domed stadium could be built. Davis is willing to put up $500 million for the potential project, as long as Vegas is willing to hold its end of the deal.
This isn’t a ploy by Davis who recently took a tour of the potential site in Las Vegas as the days of the Raiders in Oakland appear to be numbered. And if the Raiders would embark on calling Vegas home, it would symbolize the dawn of a new day in professional sports which includes him getting tax breaks.
Professional sports are no longer prohibited by imaginary barriers as more than ever it is all about the almighty dollar. In 2005, the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals participated in the National Football League’s first regular season game outside of the United States which took place in Mexico City. Each year since 2007, the NFL has had at least one regular season game take place in London, England, while the Buffalo Bills played six games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from 2008-2013. Today’s NFL owners have no problem as far as taking in currency from other nations as they are expanding their global brand which has included the notion of them putting a full-time team in the United Kingdom; so it only makes sense for them to tear down the imaginary borders that have prevented Vegas from getting a professional sports franchise as the desert is a goldmine.
Today’s team owner in the National Football League is all about the dollar; which is why we’ve seen more luxurious new stadiums popping up since the late 1990’s and the league is always in pursuit of more revenue. What the Raiders would mean to Vegas is that they would be a professional sports franchise which the city could call its own. Tourism has been the backbone of Las Vegas and that would only increase as people would be flocking to the the city to see a National Football League game in the desert; whether it be a die hard Raider fans from California willing to make the trek to Nevada, or fans of opposing teams that would use a Sunday game as an excuse to catch a flight to Vegas, it would be win for Davis, the NFL, and Sin City as the dollars would be pouring in hand over fist.
If everything goes down as planned, the move to Las Vegas for the Raiders could be as big as the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn for Los Angeles, or in National Football League terms, the original Browns leaving Cleveland in favor of Baltimore. And one thing is for sure, is that the sky would by the limit of the Silver and Black from merchandising, public appearances, and endorsements as they would be like rock stars on the Vegas strip. A Raiders team in Vegas would be extremely successful, and it could open the door for other sports leagues to open up shop in the desert.
The National Hockey League began in 1917 with just six teams and it has grown into a phenomenon with clubs in the United States and Canada while their rosters are comprised with players from numerous countries. Through expansion over the years, the NHL currently has 30 teams. The NHL has not expanded since 2000 when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets joined, but the league could be ready to soon make it 32 teams.
Potential ownership groups from Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, and Las Vegas, Nevada recently sent formal applications to the National Hockey League in order to receive an expansion franchise. Along with Seattle, Washington, Quebec City and Las Vegas have been recently rumored to be in the running for a hockey franchise. But unlike Quebec City and Vegas, there wasn’t anyone on behalf of Seattle that sent the NHL a formal application.
Quebec City has not had an National Hockey League franchise since 1995 when the Quebec Nordiques left to become the Colorado Avalanche. The Nordiques joined the NHL in 1979 after the World Hockey Associated ceased its operations. And during the Nordiques time in the NHL, they had a fierce rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens. Less than three hours separate the two cities that call the Canadian province of Quebec home and in a country that bleeds hockey, the Canadiens and Nordiques were bitter rivals. Montreal and Quebec would meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs five times with the Habs winning on three occasions. The most infamous series came in 1984 which will be remembered as the “Good Friday Massacre” in which Game 6 of the best-of-seven series was marred by several intense brawls. The Nordiques always had support from their fan base, but being that they played in a small media market along with receiving Canadian currency from the fans at the arena for tickets and merchandise to having to pay their players in American currency, Quebec was fighting an uphill battle the first time around the block in the NHL. And like the original Winnipeg Jets that moved to Arizona in 1996, the Nordiques were caught in a financial buzz saw and thus they needed a stronger financial market to play in.
But this time around, the National Hockey League and commissioner Gary Bettman appear to be more committed to bringing teams back to Canada along with revenue sharing. The NHL brought hockey back to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers moved there and it makes total sense for the league to restore hockey in Quebec City as well.
As far as Las Vegas goes, the NHL has held preseason exhibition games there in Sin City along with postseason award shows. The major professional sports leagues in North America have been reluctant to place a team in Vegas due to the fact that gambling is legal there and they are worried about players taking “dirty” money that could hinder the outcome of a game. But the NHL has enough security in place to monitor such a thing and placing a team in Vegas could be a boom for the league. Las Vegas has long been a tourist attraction due to its nightlife, casinos, and shows; and a professional hockey team in the desert would always attract fans. An NHL team in Vegas would immediately create a rivalry with the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings who both call Southern California home as the distance between L.A. and Vegas is less than five hours.
I wouldn’t see the National Hockey League Players’ Association standing in the way of expansion due to the fact that it would create more jobs and more money for the union which would be a win-win for everyone involved.
When a topic such as league expansion begins to pick up steam, you know that it is only a matter of time before it comes to fruition as the owners are all about their money. Billionaire businessman Bill Foley intends to bring an NHL team to Las Vegas while Quebecor which is a Montreal-based media company is backing Quebec City’s bid. At times Bettman has taken a ton of flack from hockey fans for his handling of the league, but bringing hockey back to Quebec City which would re-spark a rivalry with the Canadiens while also potentially becoming the first commissioner of a major North American sports league to put a franchise in Vegas, might make folks see him in a different light.