George McPhee On The Vegas Hockey Podcast

In this episode of the podcast, we welcome George McPhee into the box, the first General Manager for the new Las Vegas NHL franchise.
We talk about:
* Where he is at building his staff
* The importance of the expansion draft vs. the amateur draft
* His time playing for Herb Brooks and working with Pat Quinn
* His thoughts on the state of the Islanders
Plus a whole lot more. Don’t miss this episode of the Vegas Hockey Podcast!

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George McPhee, First General Manager of the Vegas Golden Knights meets Las Vegas for the First Time

July 13 2016

Bill Foley introduced George McPhee as the first General Manager in franchise history today at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, saying simply, “You’re the GM.”

After a “pretty exhausting search” where Foley and assistant Murray Craven interviewed seven candidates, they spent roughly two days each with three finalists. Foley said he was looking for “a guy who was dedicated, focused and with a take no prisoners attitude… and I found that person… George McPhee is our guy.”

Opening with a round of thanks to his former employers in New York, Tom Renney with Hockey Canada, and to Bill and Carol Foley “who have done the unimaginable in delivering an NHL franchise to Las Vegas,” his tenure had officially begun.

Expressing his vision for the team McPhee made it crystal clear. “Our mission here is clear, we are going to build an organization and a team that the people here in Nevada and Las Vegas will be very, very proud of. We’re going to do it quickly and we’re aiming at the Stanley Cup. It’s that simple.” He made it very obvious throughout the day his passion for the game and for the job in front of him was at full capacity.

When looking ahead to the expansion draft next June, he seemed optimistic that there would be some quality players available to him. “We have an opportunity that expansion teams in the past haven’t had, to get better players.” He plans to build an exciting, fast roster from day one. “We will play a brand of hockey that people will like, I’ve never enjoyed that sitting back style of hockey. We’ll be a team that’s attacking all the time and pressuring the puck all over the ice.” McPhee said. “You have to have talent, size, leadership and depth to win and players who want to show up and compete every day to win. It’s a process. You have to develop that culture and if you do, the results will be there.” This blueprint sounds taylor made for Las Vegas.

We asked McPhee whether he had thought about the challenges in building that culture in a non traditional market when it is tough to do in the traditional markets he said  “The buzz here has been phenomenal. They’re going to love this game and they’re going to love these players… I’ve learned a lot over the years about culture, vision, and the process and it’s about having the right roots and letting them grow deep. When you do that, you’ll get rewarded.”

In a moment that showcased his desire to win and a sense of humor, George was asked by Sin Bin’s Ken Boehlke about his son being drafted into the Pacific Division in last months entry draft. McPhee said simply “Keep your head up son.”

After a 17 year run with the Washington Capitals, McPhee is eyeing  a fresh start here in Las Vegas. With a clean slate in front of him, the fire that obviously still burns inside of him, and 23 years of front office  experience in the NHL behind him, the future just got brighter in Las Vegas.
 

Sports Anthropology with Jillian Fisher

The latest episode of the Vegas Hockey Podcast was a very fun conversation about the culture of sports. In this episode we cover

  • Hockey cultures in Minnesota, Philadelphia, Boston and New York
  • How the sporting communities reflect the population of a city
  • The madhouse that is Barcelona Soccer. Yes. Soccer.
  • How Las Vegas can grow its hockey fan base

Join us for a fun, spirited conversation before we get down to the business of playoff hockey next week!

Oilers Talk

Hello hockey fans! Our guest on this episode is The Hockey Writers Edmonton Oilers contributor Rob Soria. Chris and I cover all the basses with Rob, including…

  • How has new Head Coach Todd McLellan worked to change the culture with the Oilers
  • What does new GM Peter Chiarelli  need at the trade deadline?
  • When is Connor McDavid coming back?
  • Are they ready to compete for a playoff spot?
  • The new barn Rogers Place

Plus much more!! Check it out on iTunes , Soundcloud and HockeyTalkRadio.us  Or right Here!!!

 

Thanks for stopping by. Leave a comment, give us a rating, and enjoy the show!!

Chris Lizza can be found at The Hockey Writers

VegasHockeyPodcast

The World Awaits… NHL Expansion: Who’s In… And Who’s Out

Mark Warner

July 17 2015

With the NHL Announcement on June 24th that it will begin accepting Official Applications for new franchises, speculation has run rampant on which cities would formally apply. This report on CBSSports.Com sums up the announcement:

     NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league’s board of governors has approved the opening of a formal expansion process. This does not necessarily mean the league will definitely expand, but this will allow the league to more formally gauge interest from various markets and explore all possibilities.Formal applications for expansion will start being accepted on July 6. They will have to be submitted no later than August 10

By “more formally gauge interest” we assume they mean collect the application fee from as many cities as possible. It is reported  to be 10 million dollars, 2 million of which is non-refundable.

         As first co-reported by thn.com and The Seattle Times last week, the price just to apply for a team is a minimum of $2 million. But wait, there’s more. Prospective owners are required to put down $10 million when they formally apply for a team. If they do not get a team, in a best-case scenario, they’d have $8 million returned to them.

This fee, and the cost of a franchise, which is reported to be variable by market, is certainly having its effects on who will apply.  The following is from a Sporting News article

Applying for an NHL expansion franchise will cost $10 million, an unidentified NHL source confirmed to the Seattle Times, not the $1 million that has been reported by media outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, $2 million of that fee is non-refundable, presumably a big enough number to prevent groups that might not be fully committed to the process from applying.

And this from THN.COM

 Conversely, Las Vegas wants in the NHL badly and the team will be owned by a billionaire, so the price tag there might be closer to $500 million, whereas Seattle, a place where the NHL would like to place a team, might be in the neighborhood of how much it would cost Quebec City to get a team.

Kansas City Out 

These fees have eliminated Kansas City, a city many thought would apply. As reported in the Kansas City Star, the likely ownership groups will not materialize.

     Lamar Hunt Jr., who owns the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks, a minor-league hockey team that plays in Independence, called the NHL’s $500 million price tag for an expansion franchise “a ridiculously big fee,” and said that he is not aware of anyone in Kansas City who will make a push for a team.

“No, it’s not on my radar,” he said. “It’s not on this team’s radar, and it’s not on my radar.”

Cliff Illig, a billionaire and part of the ownership group of Sporting Kansas City, is also not involved with a bid for Kansas City, and does not know of anyone who is. “You could say that,” he said. “That’s certainly the truth.”

Seattle In AND Out 

With early reports out of the Pacific Northwest that two and possibly three  separate groups would be applying, excitement from the NHL To Seattle groups on social media was peaking.

In our conversation with Paul Rogers from the Seattle Sin Bin, the excitement appeared to be giving way to uncertainty, as the various groups around Seattle jockeyed for position. The Vegas Hockey Podcast show is quite interesting, give it a listen!

With yesterday’s reports on the SB Nation page SonicsRising detailing the withdrawal of Chris Hansen and the SODO Arena plan, as well as the mysterious Bellevue group, The Puget Sound NHL hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of  the Tukwila/Bartozek group. From Sonic Rising:

     A source involved from the Seattle effort said Friday the Coleman group had told the NHL it wanted to finalize the arena site before submitting an application. The same source also indicated Vancouver, B.C., native Coleman hoped to “fast track” the expansion process once a land deal is completed. Coleman’s camp, according to sources, also indicated it is still committed to bringing an NHL franchise to Seattle.

So, there is still optimism  in Seattle, but the initial excitement is turning into frustrated hope.

Las Vegas Still The Favorite

From the privately funded arena on schedule to open in the spring of 2016,  the ownership group privately paying any expansion/application fees, the very successful ticket drive, the lease agreement in place, everything points to an NHL expansion team starting play in Sin City for the 2017-18 season. As CBS Sports says:

       There is no market right now that appears as ripe for expansion as Las Vegas. They have the building — a 20,000-seat arena being built by AEG and MGM slated for completion in 2016. They have the ownership group — billionaire Bill Foley and Las Vegas magnates, the Maloof family. They even have had the season-ticket drive, for which they’ve received pledges well over the 10,000-ticket goal they set. People put down real-money deposits for a team that doesn’t exist yet. With all of that in mind, Las Vegas is No. 1 for expansion right now.

Quebec City Closing Strong

With the ownership group of Quebecor Media and their billions, the beautiful new Videotron Centre, and the apparent unraveling of things in Washington State, Quebec Cities bid to reignite the Nordiques flame is gaining steam. The Globe and Mail reported Quebecor’s intention:

     “Quebecor has consistently stated that its objective is to establish an NHL franchise in Quebec City and it intends to make every effort to achieve that goal,” the statement said. “Out of respect for NHL authorities and the process that has been established, Quebecor will maintain its policy of discretion as it proceeds.”

The fan-base is fanatical about hockey, something it holds above any other market applying for a team. With the city and province shifting from their political stand against financial help to the original Nords, to one where they jointly financed the new arena, all the questions appear to have been answered in Quebec.

The Long Shots

Portland, Toronto, Milwaukee, and Houston have all been linked to NHL rumors at one time or another recently. Each city has their pros and cons, but are viewed as secondary options.

Portland would be a great option if the Seattle groups can’t get an arena project approved. They have an NHL sized arena already. The problem there is lack of an interested ownership group. Paul Allen owns the arena and the NBA Trailblazers, and is not an enthusiastic hockey guy.

The lack of an arena seems to eliminate putting a second team in the greater Toronto area. The Maple Leafs and Sabres both have voiced proximity concerns.

Milwaukee is having their own political quagmire concerning a new arena and the NHL must be hesitant to enter another publicly  funded arena minefield.

Houston would create a nice local rivalry with the Stars, but doesn’t expand the league footprint the way the efforts of Seattle, Portland and Las Vegas would.

With the new deadline of June 20th looming and only Quebec City and Las Vegas believed to have submitted their bids, the hockey world waits with baited breath to see who else will join the expansion party. The more time passes, the more the pretenders are separated from the real contenders. In September, Gary Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors will announce the winners of the expansion lottery, if any. Stay tuned.

Follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our Podcast on iTunes for all the latest expansion news!

What Makes Hockey “work” in A Given market? Will hockey “work” in Las Vegas? Part One of a Three Part Series

Hello hockey fans, welcome to the blog! We have received great feedback from our listeners and the twittersphere and one of the main topics is “will hockey “work” in Las Vegas” ? We think that is a great topic to explore more in-depth on a podcast, but for now, a few quick thoughts, or maybe not so quick.

If you have listened to our first episode, Thanks!!! In it, we had a great discussion with NHL Goaltender Clint Malarchuk about that very subject. Clint played Goalie in the most traditional of markets, Quebec City, and perhaps the least traditional market most hockey fans can imagine, Las Vegas. Which is one of the reasons we sought Clint for our first show. We felt his perspective on both markets would be unique. We were right. If you haven’t listened to the show, you can right here on Soundcloud Or here on iTunes Or you can follow us on Twitter

Among other things, one main theme came from him and he said it best. “I’m often asked if Vegas would work as a hockey market, and my answer is yes” Clint told us. He cited great fan support for a minor league team, which was over 7,500 and in the top ten in the league until the arena refused them a new lease. This was in 1993-97 at a time when Las Vegas had a population of barely 400,000 people. He said point-blank, “Vegas IS a hockey town”, Now the city has grown to over 2 million people in the area, most having moved here from cold weather, traditional hockey cities and the one thing they do miss from back home is their hockey, as Clint rightly pointed out. Some of us have been here since the 80’s, went to the first outdoor game in the modern era at Ceasers Palace between the Kings and the Rangers, went to as many Las Vegas Thunder games as we could, and know how the city feels about hockey first hand. Most of you don’t. People look for reasons the franchise here will fail, and cite the teams in Arizona and Florida as examples. People look for reasons the franchise will succeed and cite the 41 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year, or the Casinos will prop up the team. We think the truth is somewhere in the middle. But the bottom line, as Mr. Malarchuk said, “Vegas WILL support a hockey team”. And there is no one who would know better than him.

So, what does make hockey “work” in a given market? Is it the weather? We here at the podcast hear that “Hockey in the desert is a stupid idea” all the time. Is it? Can NHL teams in warm weather climates succeed? How do you define success? One friend of the show from Quebec has said success is selling 90% of your tickets on average. We like to think that on ice results matter greatly, is that true? Do Cups equal success? How about a cities “passion” or “love” of the sport? Does that automatically mean buts in the seats and financial stability regardless of on ice performance and climate conditions? Does that even mean an NHL team will be financially viable in a hardcore traditional market? All very good questions that need to be asked and answered, so we will take a crack at them.

Number one and the easiest to answer is can hockey work in a warmer climate city and the answer is so obviously yes that to suggest otherwise is, quite frankly, laughable. Lets look at a few teams that have made things work in warmer cities, and then at some that have not. Maybe herein lies the answer to the larger question facing us.

We hear a lot of people using Florida as an example of why Las Vegas shouldn’t be given an NHL team. We agree that after the Panthers magical run with the rats raining down to the ice that things have gone south in a hurry, (no pun intended). However, these people conveniently  forget that just up the road is a team many consider to be thriving  in Florida, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now by the 90% of seats sold barometer, we say the Bolts are a big success.  We will use post lockout numbers for the purposes of this discussion, mainly because looking at the last 10 years is relevant to the Las Vegas question. Over the last ten years, The Lightning have been 2nd,3rd.8th twice, 9th.10th 13th, 18th, and 21st twice. They have had a high average of 20,509 and a low average of 16,497. Six out of 10 years in the top ten in attendance. only twice in the bottom third. They have a Stanley Cup Championship from 2003-04. During that time they made the playoffs six times and did not qualify four times. This would seem to spell success, right? The team has lost money in 5 of those 10 seasons, according to Forbes, with a high of -11.9 million in 2010-11.

So in the Lightnings case. we would say marginally successful. The perception of  ticket sales equaling success seems to hold up somewhat, but on ice success in this market does not necessarily mean profitability.

Looking at another non-traditional market, Los Angeles may surprise you. Setting the three barometers of success as attendance, on ice performance, and profitability, how do the Kings stack up? Certainly there is a perception of an increased level of interest since the Kings won their first Championship in 2012, and then again in 2014. Is this entirely true? Was Staples Center an empty barn before 2012? Let’s find out.

Starting in 2002-2003, The Kings started a franchise record run of six straight seasons missing the playoffs. They would not see the postseason again until 2009-10. So, obviously, on ice performance was a negative factor. Or was it? During that time the Kings would start 12th in the league in attendance with 17,569, or 97 percent of capacity. They fell to a low of 22nd, drawing 16,488 per game in the 2008-09 campaign, or 89 percent of capacity. Still within a tick of the 90 percent sell rate we set as the bar for success. In between they finished 11th, 12th, 16th, 18th, only falling below the 90th percentile the one year. Pretty solid numbers for a team with no fans until three or four years later. And in a warm weather city far from the Canadian border.  Their operating revenue those years only dipped into the red once, 2010-11.  Now, since 2011, attendance has risen back to where it was in 2002-03 and above, which should be expected. This year, the Kings drew 100.2 percent of capacity at 18,265. Good for 15th in the league.  By the way the Kings won the Stanley Cup twice in three years from 2012 through 2014.

Summarizing the Kings last ten years, under the three guidelines we set forth above, we see a very successful franchise, even before their current on ice successes. Selling 90 percent of their  tickets while finishing tied for last in 2006-07 demonstrates a solid, loyal fan base in Los Angeles. And it’s been there for some time. The teams value has soared from 118 million in 1997 to a current value of 580 million.

Now let’s look at some very traditional, hockey rich franchises, starting with the Chicago Blackhawks. Does cold weather, proximity to Canada or “traditional market” decide profitability? How does on ice performance affect attendance in a hockey “hotbed?” Let’s see what the numbers say.

From 2003-04 to 2014-15 the Blackhawks have seen a roller coaster of attendance figures. In 03-04 Chicago drew only 13,253 fans finishing 27th in the league, at 58 percent of the standing room capacity of the United Center, the second lowest per game average in our survey, Lower even than the current poster child of “franchise futility” the Arizona Coyotes 2014-15 total of 13,345. The following year was even worse, checking in at 29th overall.  How is this possible? Was it the on ice performance that turned away the fans in Chicago?

From 2003-2007 the Blackhawks missed the playoffs.In 2003 they had the second worst record in the league with 59 points. Only Pittsburgh was worse with 58. Missing the playoffs again in 05-06 with a not much improved 65 points saw the attendance drop to 13,318, twenty-ninth in the league. In 2006-07 The Blackhawks drew only 12,727 fans, second to last in the NHL, again finishing last in the Central Division. How could such a tradition rich, cold weather team draw roughly 3,500 less fans per game with barely 55 percent of tickets sold, than the warm weather, non traditional market Los Angeles Kings during similar periods of on ice ineptitude? We have heard several reasons mentioned for this, most often hearing the lack of a TV deal, or the ownership wasn’t supporting the team as well as the fans might hope. But when you look at the next few years, it may be that on ice performance drives ticket sales in Chicago.

Beginning in the 2007-08 season the Blackhawks fortunes began to change. While they still missed the playoffs, they selected Patrick Kane with the number one overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft. Having picked Jonathon Toews with the third overall pick the previous year, the Blackhawks on ice fortunes were improving, along with their attendance. They brought in 16,814 fans per game that season good for nineteenth in the league. Still well below the 90 percent threshold, but trending up. In the 2008-09 season, the Blackhawks would return to the playoffs and their attendance would continue to mirror their performance. In fact, they would lead the league in attendance with over 100 percent of tickets sold bringing in 22,247 per game. With skillful management building the team around Kane and Toews the Blackhawks would go on to win the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013. They have now reached the Western Conference Finals in three straight years and five out of the last seven.

On the financial side of things, the Blackhawks, in their lowest attended season. had negative operating revenue of 4 million dollars. All other years in the survey they had positive operating revenue reported by Forbes. Peaking last year with a 50 million dollar surplus, and a whopping 110 percent capacity average, easily taking the number one spot in both percentage of tickets sold and number of fans through the door, The sixth straight year the Hawks have led the league in attendance.

It was noted that Bill Wirtz claimed to have lost $191 million dollars from 1997-2007, however, when the revenue from the United Center and the Chicago Bulls among other events is factored in, the Blackhawks are very successful. Although, it must be said, attendance at the United Center appears to mirror on-ice results more than any other team we looked at.

In the next part of this three part blog, we will look at more franchises in depth like the Minnesota Wild and the Dallas Stars to see if we can determine if hockey works in two cities with the same franchise!

Thanks for reading, feel free to send any feedback to MarkWarner@VegasHockeyPodcast

Western Conference Finals Preview

Hello hockey fans, welcome to the blog! In this issue of the Vegas Hockey Podcast Blog, Tom and I look at the  Western Conference Finals, break them down, and pick the winners. After Mark went 10-2 through the first two rounds and Tom is sitting nicely at 7-5, you might want to listen to the show on iTunes before heading to the window to place your series wagers, that is, if you live in Nevada.

First up, we look at the Western Conference where the Anaheim Ducks take on the Chicago Blackhawks. This series looks to be a long, physical battle of attrition, especially if the Ducks are to prevail. We agree that if the Blackhawks are to advance to their third final in five years they will need to control tempo and keep the puck moving North and South, especially through the neutral zone.  If the ducks strong young defenseman can hold the blue line and make the Hawks dump and chase, that bodes well for the south landers. With home ice, they should be able to match up early in the series, and put heavy bodies on the Chicago forwards from the opening face off. Anaheim’s defense also chips in on the score sheet, tallying up 29 points in only 9 games played in this years playoffs. They sport solid +/- numbers, allowing only 2.00 goals against in the playoffs. Continuing with the stingy defensive scheme, the Ducks are killing penalties at an 87 percent clip.

The Blackhawks defense starts with Duncan Keith. Playing over thirty minutes a game, scoring at a point a game clip, both his post season goals were game winners. The first one coming in Game one against the Predators, the other in the series clincher. Also leading the team with a +10. He is having a Conn Smythe type playoff run. The rest of their D corps needs to step up now that Michael Rozsival is done for the season. Coach Q will have his hands full slotting defenseman in to replace his 17:26 of ice time after Keith. He might have to give Kimmo Timonen more ice time, something he has been very hesitant to do. Their 2.80 goals against In the playoffs is the worst of the remaining teams, and their penalty kill is an atrocious 72 percent. That alone could be their undoing against the Ducks if it isn’t fixed fast. Their overall +/- isn’t near what the Ducks are, with Oduya bottoming out at -5 and 6 other players under water. By contrast the Ducks only have 2 players under the even mark, with Matt Beleskey at -2 the low man. None of their defenseman are carrying a minus rating into this series. The Ducks defense carries a clear advantage.

Looking to the forwards, first glance would favor the Blackhawks. Elite level skill in Jonathon Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa have carried this team to the Conference Finals for the third year in a row. Kane is leading the way with seven goals and thirteen points and Toews is right behind him with eleven points and seven assists. Patrick Sharp is also having a nice playoffs with four goals and five assists. Their power play is hitting at a nice 20 percent clip. They will have to shoulder the burden because after them and Duncan Keith’s points they drop off pretty quick. The Hawks only have seven  players with 5 or more points, while the Ducks have twelve. In fact of all the other forwards, only Brandon Saad has more than one goal, including Hossa, Brad Richards, and Kris Versteeg. More will be needed if they hope to match the Ducks.

On the Ducks side, the scoring comes from everywhere, averaging 3.89 goals a game, the highest left in the playoffs.   Their power play is hitting at a thirty one percent rate. Thirty one. Starting with Corey Perry, his fifteen points,(7G 8A), leads the playoffs. Getzlaf has twelve points, Jakob Silfverberg has eleven points, Ryan Kesler has nine, all at a point a game or higher. Their third and fourth line guys like Tim Jackman and Richard Rakell continue the hit parade that is started right at the top. Right now, the Ducks forward group is playing with chemistry that will be very hard to stop.

The goaltending in this series is difficult to judge. On the Blackhawks Corey Crawford is a Stanley Cup Champion goaltender. Hoever, he has only started six games in the playoffs while the “backup” Scott Darling has started four. Both goalies have been pulled during the playoffs. While Coach Q has settled on Crawford for right now, Darling has better numbers than him, sporting a 2.21 GAA to Crawfords 2.6 and a save percentage of .936 to Crawfords .916. The Conference Finals are not the time or place to be unsettled in goal. The other teams that were shuffling goalies like Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, are all off for the summer.

Frederick Andersen has played all nine games for the Ducks, and has looked very sharp. He is 8-1 with a stellar 1.96 GAA and a save percentage of .925. He has answered the question of wether he was ready for playoff hockey with flying colors.  I give the checkmark to the Ducks.

The coaching edge has to go to the Blackhawks. Coach Quenneville is a Champion twice over and has proven himself in the regular season and the playoffs time and time again. Coach Boudreau has proven his merit in the regular season with a Jack Adams and three Presidents Cups, but this will be his first trip out of the second round. This is the time to shed the regular season system tag. Show me don’t tell me Coach B.

When you look at this year only, the Ducks have been on a mission. They are playing a tighter defensive style than ever before, but have not struggled to find scoring all through the lineup, like their neighbors to the north,the Kings have. This year they make it back to the Finals, in six games.

Thanks for stopping by to share a few minutes with us. You can reach us at VegasHockeyPodcast@Yahoo.com with all your questions, complaints, and comments, we read them all so thanks for doing it !!!

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