NBC Sports hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick is convinced Las Vegas would be a good fit for the NHL, and vice versa.
Appearing on Sports Illustrated Now on Monday, Roenick said he thinks hockey can work "anywhere" considering the amount and level of talent in the league.
As for Las Vegas specifically, the former NHL star believes the city's reputation as one of the country's top travel destinations would attract fans from all teams.
"I do believe that a team will be going into Las Vegas," Roenick said. "I think [commissioner] Gary Bettman's been very, very careful about what he says. He tiptoes around the idea of expansion, but I know that the league wants to expand and they have the ability to expand because our game is getting that much better. I know there are people that want to own teams in Las Vegas."
Last month, potential owner Bill Foley sent out emails to prospective ticket buyers in Las Vegas announcing a Bettman-sanctioned ticket drive that will collect deposits for seasons tickets for the 2016-17 season. Bettman gave approval for the ticket drive after the NHL's Board of Governeros meetings in early December, and since then, the notion of a team in Las Vegas has picked up steam. Foley has mentioned "Black Knights" as a potential team name considering his alma mater is the United States Military Academy at West Point, and has also said that he's been receiving guidance from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
"I think it'll happen, I think it can work," Roenick said. "There's a lot of money there, and I think a lot of people would love to go to Vegas to watch their favorite team play. It wouldn't be bad to be the first pro sports team in Vegas. I think the NHL likes to be the pioneers in that aspect."
The NHL currently has 30 franchises, 23 in the United States and seven in Canada. It last expanded before the 2000-01 season with the additions of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. The Atlanta Thrashers also moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and became the Winnipeg Jets before the 2011-12 season, while the Phoenix Coyotes changed their name to the Arizona Coyotes before the 2014-15 season.
- Mike Fiammetta