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NHL Conference Finals Mid Point, What Have We Learned?

Hello hockey fans, welcome to the blog! We are half way through the NHL Conferences Finals and it is time to take a look at what we have learned so far.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning have taken a 2-1 series lead, with Game Four tonight. There were three or four main points in our Eastern Conference Preview Show with handicapper Dana Lane that we made before the series started. The first was the Rangers scoring. They have not been able to keep up with the Lightning giving up 6 goals in back to back games. That’s not Rangers hockey. Before the series started, Henry Lundqvist had a 1.6 goals against average, but four of their top six defenseman had a minus rating. That indicates that Henry had bailed them out, and that trend couldn’t continue. The Lightning goalie  Ben Bishop, was mostly being overshadowed by his opponents goalies, Mrazek, Price, and now Lundqvist. We can argue he has outplayed them all.  Then we looked at the Lightning scoring and decided they were to deep for the Rangers to contain. In the past, if a team could shut down the Stamkos line, they had a good chance at success. That’s no longer the case. The “triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov have out worked the Rangers at both ends of the ice. It is showing up on the score sheet and in their plus minus ratings as well, with a combined plus fifteen in the playoffs. With Killorn and Stamkos heating up, this poses big problems for Alain Vigneault. We talked about the coaching matchup and ended up in a draw. With Vigneault’s experience in the NHL and Coach Coopers championship pedigree at every level both making strong points. Alain Vigneault has to find answers for Tampa’s scoring depth. That was our thought going into the series, and so far that has not happened. If Tampa wins tonight, don’t look for the Rangers to win three straight against this club. The Lightning are too deep.

In the west, the Ducks and Blackhawks are playing a decidedly tougher series. With the triple OT game two, and last nights 2-1 Ducks win, this series just feels closer than the east. We highlighted the Ducks defensive scoring in our Western Conference Preview Show and that has been the difference so far, with Simon Despres netting the game winner in Game Three. Hampus Lindholm assisting on the Ducks opening goal and Cam Fowler assisting on the Despres goal, they have not slowed down a bit. In fact, nine of the Ducks seventeen points in this series have come from the blue line. Better than fifty percent.   This while still maintaining a great plus minus with not one member of the defense carrying a minus rating. Can you say dominant? We can. The forwards for both teams have been almost a wash, with the Ducks depth tipping the scales to the 2-1 series lead. If the Blackhawks could start burying the chances they are getting from Shaw, Saad, Hossa, and Sharp they can still make a series of it. But with their combined two goals, both in the Game Two classic, we continue to say more will be needed if they are to advance. Both goalies have been at the spectacular level so far, so the onus falls on the forwards, and the Ducks have the edge.

At the midpoint of the NHL Conference Finals, it looks like we are heading to an all warm weather Finals, as we predicted in our podcasts. With the league looking at a possible Rangers Vs Blackhawks ratings bonanza, we hope the refs let the teams play this out, because we are seeing a classic changing of the guard in the West and an offensive Dynamo in the making out East.

Thanks for stopping by, for more NHL content, look for us on the ITunes Podcast or follow us on Twitter !!!

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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

Une conversation avec Clint Malarchuk

Salut aux amateurs de hockey et bienvenue au Vegas hockey Podcast! La première baladodiffusion était en l’honneur de Clint Malarchuk! https://soundcloud.com/vegashockeypodcast/clint-malarchuk
Il y a eu beaucoup de réactions favorables suite à cette diffusion. Plusieurs nous ont écrit pour nous parler de leur propre situation quant à la venue d’un club de la LNH. Que ce soit Seattle, Québec ou Las Vegas. Mark and Tom sont favorables à la venue de toutes ces villes et vont tout faire pour mousser la candidature de chacune d’entre-elles. Loin d’eux l’idée de favoriser une ville au détriment d’une autre. Toutefois, soyez avisé que si vous décidez de dénigrer la candidature de Las Vegas, il est fort possible qu’ils réagissent ! 😉
Pour la première baladodiffusion, leur invité était un vétéran ayant œuvré 10 ans dans la LNH, Clint Malarchuk. Il fut rencontré à l’occasion du lancement de son livre. Clint a joué dans la défunte Ligue Internationale de hockey (LIH) pour le Thunder de Las Vegas au milieu des années 90. Nous remercions grandement Clint d’avoir pris de son temps pour échanger avec nous. Son livre est intitulé « A matter of inches, or how I survived in the crease and beyond » mais au Canada le titre est « The Crazy game », publié par Triumph Books. Dans ce livre on y décrit notamment sa vie composée de troubles obsessionnels compulsifs, d’anxiété et de dépression qui ont failli lui coûter la vie. Nous ne pouvons que le remercier de sa générosité, franchise et humilité pour discuter de ces sujets si délicats.
Que ce soit comme joueur, assistant-entraîneur, entraîneur ou assistant-directeur général ses réflexions à propos de ses années dans la LNH avec les Nordiques ou dans la LIH avec le Thunder vous réservent des surprises!

En voici quelques extraits:
“Les gens me demandent souvent si ce fut thérapeutique pour moi d’écrire ce livre” – Clint
« Oui. Toutes ces années à se cacher derrière un masque étaient difficiles mais c’était rendu une seconde nature pour moi. » – Clint
« C’est une maladie et non une faiblesse et il y a de l’aide disponible »- Clint
« On me demande souvent si le hockey à Vegas pourrait être un succès et je réponds oui »- Clint
« Vegas EST un marché de hockey » – Clint
« Les gens qui venaient aux matchs n’avaient pas eu des billets gratuits du Casino, ils voulaient voir des matchs de hockey. Il y avait de l’ambiance »- Clint
“Bob Strumm est un gars que je vois impliqué dans cette franchise » – Clint
“Les gens de Québec étaient des maniaques de hockey et ce fut une magnifique expérience à cet endroit, ceci étant dit, Las Vegas aussi”- Clint
« Je crois vraiment que Las Vegas peut-être une ville de hockey »- Clint
« Québec est sans aucun doute une ville qui mérite une équipe »- Clint
“Il y a toujours eu de bonnes foules et de bons partisans à Vegas. Ils vont supporter une future équipe de la LNH»- Clint
Ceci n’était que de courts extraits de cet interview! Vous devrez écouter le prochain 25 minutes de cette conversation avec Clint Malarchuk pour en apprendre davantage! Venant d’un gars ayant gravité environ 35 ans dans le hockey, qui a joué à Vegas et à Québec, son opinion sur un groupe d’inconditionnels pouvant exister a son importance pour mesurer l’intérêt et le support qu’obtiendrait cette ville.
Je vous suggère d’écouter l’émission, plusieurs éléments intéressants s’y retrouvent! Si cela vous intéresse, vous pouvez également vous inscrire en appuyant sur le bouton « subscribe » pour être certain d’être avisé des prochains épisodes!
Merci à tous ceux qui sont entrés en contact avec nous dernièrement! Ce n’est qu’un début et on espère que vous ferez partis de l’aventure! N’hésitez pas à nous écrire!
Mark et Tom
The Vegas Hockey Podcast
@VegasHockeyPod

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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Seattle Arena Plans Turned Upside Down,NHL Timeline Shift to 2017-18 Comes Into Focus

Hello hockey fans, welcome to the blog! As always, thank you for taking time out to stop by. We appreciate all the support and feedback we have received, and look forward to more of the same! On tap for this post is what we believe to be the NHL timeline for expansion, and why the shift a few weeks back from a 2016-17 start up for Las Vegas to a 2017-18 date, allegedly.
NHL Expansion into the west has been rumored for a while now, with most now believing that the two front runners in the west are Seattle and Las Vegas. It’s kind of the worst kept secret since, well, Area 51. Everyone knew it was there, but the government said nope, nothing to see here. The same thing has been going on with the NHL. It wasn’t until As recently as April 21st that Comissioner Bettman acknowledged that he would report on the ticket drive results to the Board of Goveners. His comments here via CBC.Ca :

“What I’m hearing is that the season-ticket drive has gone and is going extraordinarily well,” Bettman said. “When we get to the [board of governors] meeting in June I will report to the board as to where things stand based on the expressions of interest and we’ll figure out then what, if anything, we want to do.”

Meanwhile in the Pacific Northwest, there is a decidedly different tone from the Commissioner, his comments here come from associated press reports:

“We believe there are substantial people interested in owning a franchise there, and I’m not surprised because I think it would be a great market for NHL hockey,” Bettman said. “But there’s a threshold issue which relates to the arena. … Somebody’s got to be in a position to execute. And as of this point, Seattle isn’t there yet. Obviously, if it gets to that point, and the interest from potential ownership continues, it will catch our attention.”

Also the Seattle Mayor believes the Commissioner is excited about the possibilities of a team in Seattle. Comments from King5.com.

As far as the NHL, Murray reiterated what he said through a press release earlier in the day, that the NHL and Bettman made it known to him that it would like to put a team in Seattle. That’s if the city had a NHL ready building to play in.

Seems like a decidedly different tone from Comissioner Bettman when discussing the two markets. Almost like he can’t believe how great things are going in Las Vegas and how hard Seattle is having to fight to get out of the ground. The “what, if anything” comment strikes us as almost intentionally designed to discourage.

What is now becoming obvious is that Las Vegas is leading the pack among suitors for an NHL franchise, and the league is struggling to find a dance partner for her.  What seemed like a good result for Seattle  when the EIS was submitted on May 7th has now seen the whole SODO MOA deal start to unravel, as reported by the Seattle Times:

“This deal’s just not doable, at least as it’s constructed today,” says Tim Burgess, the president of the Seattle City Council. “I wouldn’t say it’s dead. But we are not going to go ahead with this arena without substantial changes. And there are no plans right now for those.”

As things have progressed so well in Las Vegas, shockingly so to some, as expected by those who actually live here, the NHL appeared ready to expand into both markets for the 2016-17 season. So much so that Hockey Vision Las Vegas hinged their refund policy on the season tickets being sold to a franchise starting play in  the 2016 season. 

But, back on April 19th the air was let out of the balloon, somewhat. This report by ESPN.com writer Scott Burnside said the expansion process timeline could stretch to the 2017-18 season.

While there remains widespread belief within the hockey community that the NHL will become the first major professional sports league to put down stakes in the gambling mecca, it is now believed that the earliest a team would begin play is the 2017-18 season.

While previous reports had speculated the expansion announcement would come this June at the Board of Goveners meeting, the now expected timeline is an update on the ticket drive during the June meetings, followed by a vote in September, reported by Alan Snel from the Las Vegas Review Journal. 

… so the 2017-18 season is likely the earliest a prospective team in Las Vegas would start play in light of the NHL Board of Governors possibly voting on a Las Vegas franchise in September.

Curiously, on April 28th, just ten days prior to when the EIS study was due in Seattle, the reports coming out of the Northwest began of a new, privately funded arena project in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, like this report on King5.com

On Monday, the City acknowledged that Ray Bartoszek, through a holding company, had expressed interest in building a privately financed arena in the area.The new documents reveal that Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton wrote a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, back on November 14th, expressing the city’s interest in bringing the league’s to the City. In it, he referenced the group, led by Brown and Lee, that also includes NBA Legend Bill Russell:

So, with the Vegas timeline reportedly being pushed back a year becoming public just ten days prior to the Tukwila Arena plan being released, and that just ten days before the EIS report was due on the SODO site, the implications become clear. Especially when the new timeline for the Tukwila project is revealed. The expected completion date of that project if it goes forward? You guessed it, Fall 2017. 

This morning, ESPN’s Craig Custance reported that Ray Bartoszek is, as we suspected, the man behind the push to build a multi-purpose arena in Tukwila. Bartoszek, via his company RLB Holdings Sports and Entertainment, filed a code interpretation request with the city and is expected to file a SEPA application this Friday. The target date to open the arena is the fall of 2017.

The above quote comes from the Blog Sonics Rising. Since the newly public group has been quietly working with the City of Tukwila since at least May 2014, and the timing of the press reports, it’s not hard to speculate that there are at least some handshake deals in place with the Las Vegas and Tukwila groups. Especially with a billion dollars in franchise fees and a couple billion dollars in real estate development on the line. 

With today’s news that Chris Hansen’s SODO Plan is dead to the Seattle City Council in a hockey first scenario, and the Ray Bartoszek group apparently gaining traction in Tukwila, the shift from a 2016-17 start to a 2017-18 plan now seems to make sense. Unfortunately for Las Vegas, it seems. But we look at it from the perspective that getting a major league franchise in Las Vegas is long over due, and if we wait an extra year, that just gives Mr.Foley more time to make things better when they finally drop the puck.

As always, thanks for stopping by to share some time with us. You can follow us on Twitter or catch our show on ITunes. We are always ready to talk some hockey so drop in and say hi!

Mark Warner

VegasHockeyPodcast



Is The Las Vegas NHL Bid Viable? Bet On It!

Hello hockey fans, welcome to the blog! Thanks for stopping by to spend some time with us. We always appreciate our listeners and readers all over the world coming by, so leave us a comment or subscribe to the show, and we will get back to you as soon as  we can.

On today’s agenda, we look at the question Is Las Vegas a serious contender when the league presents the expansion question to its Board of Governors at their Las Vegas meetings in June? In addition we explore whether the bid is a financially strong one. How do we compare to other cities clamoring for an NHL team?  Will the city show up to the games if we are awarded a franchise? Good questions all, so let’s have a look!

Las Vegas is a serious contender to land their first major league sports franchise. Let’s get that out-of-the-way right now. Our ownership group, Mr. Bill Foley and The Maloof brothers Joe and Gavin, have brought forward the strongest bid in North America of all cities currently in the running. Make no mistake about it. As revealed by  Mark Prows, Vice President at MGM Resorts in a Montreal Newspaper article, there is already a long term lease agreement in place between the MGM and the ownership group should a franchise be awarded. No other city can make that claim. In fact, the other major player in the west, Seattle can’t even start an arena until an NBA TEAM has committed as a tenant. It is in their City Councils Memorandum of Understanding. According to the NBA, this is not happening any time soon. If it does eventually occur, Seattle will also be forced to fund up to fifty percent of the arena with $200 Million dollars of public funds because no private ownership group has stepped forward to fund the arena one hundred percent in that market.  Without an arena to play in, the question of a Seattle franchise is on hold, at best. We wish them luck because there are some good hockey fans up there, and the NHL does need two teams to balance the number of teams in each conference. The other major player, Quebec City has an arena on schedule to open in the fall, but required one hundred percent public funding to get built. Forgive us, but our opinion is that the more politicians get involved with things, the worse things are. Will Quebecor, the media conglomerate that would be their ownership group be able to negotiate a lease with the city and province that will allow them to be financially stable this time around? The last franchise there, The Nordiques, were forced to move to Colorado in 1995, largely due to the province refusing a request for much needed financial help from ownership, and a weakening Canadian Dollar, much the same as it is now. In fact the  Montreal article  which Google Chrome will translate for you, openly questions whether Las Vegas has moved in front of Quebec City as the front-runner for a team. We know that it has, but coming from Montreal, this says everything.

The Las Vegas Arena is privately funded to the tune of $375 million dollars by MGM Resorts in a partnership with world leader in Arena Management AEG. With not one cent coming from public coffers, Las Vegas has avoided the political quagmire that has stalled the Seattle Arena before it has even started. The ownership group, Mr. Foley and the Maloof Brothers are paying the franchise fee of $500 Million dollars out of their own pockets.  Not one cent coming from public money, and the check is on the table, waiting for the NHL to pick it up and cash it. Again, no other city in North America can say this. One last point on the strength of the financial bid. Do billionaires spend $875-$975 Million dollars of their own money, partnering with the biggest and best Arena Management Company in the world, AEG, and the premiere resort company worldwide, MGM Resorts because they hope that somehow, maybe, the product and marketplace will show a return on that investment? Please. No one could legitimately make that claim. No other city currently in the running for a team can put forward as strong of a financial foundation for their bid. In fact, no other city can claim a privately funded arena, a five hundred million dollar franchise fee on the table, and a favorable long term lease agreement in place and ready to go. No other city can claim even one of these facts. Las Vegas not only has a case, it has the STRONGEST case.

Let’s look at the other factor here, sustainability. It does no good to be awarded a team if five years down the road no one is going to games. They have spent millions on market analysis and research that shows we have an avid hockey fan base in Las Vegas that will support a hockey team. Las Vegas is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports team, to the tune of 2.2 million people. Seattle has a larger population, but with the Seahawks gathering fans and the Mariners pulling in fans, and the Sounders drawing very well, the disposable income necessary to support two new franchises running simultaneously with the NFL and the MLS  just isn’t there. And, in fact, these teams have recently gone on record as opposing expansion, as has the City of  Portland. Remember, they need an NBA team as primary tenant to begin construction on an arena. This effectively starts the NHL out as the second fiddle team in their own building, hardly ideal conditions, and not what Gary Bettman has in mind for his league. The city is desperate to have their Super Sonics back, but the NBA has nixed the expansion talk. Could the city support a simultaneous start up of the NBA and the NHL? At the same time the twelfth man is in full force? Seattle is a great sports city, but the financial studies say otherwise.

If awarded a franchise either expansion or relocation, Quebec City would become the second smallest market with a major professional sports team, behind only Green Bay, and that franchise is a publicly owned commodity. The passionate hockey fans there could make things work this time around. We here at Vegas Hockey Podcast are on record many times saying we hope Quebec City and Seattle both get teams, and how great it would be to enter the league with either city. But economically, the Las Vegas population is better suited to support an NHL Team, as this study by the American Business Journal clearly shows. Las Vegas has the larger population with near 2.3 million residents to Quebec Cities 793.500. Las Vegas has the strongest financial analytics to be able to support an NHL team, with a total of 83 Billion dollars in personal income to Quebec Cities 34 billion. Meaning there is 50 billion dollars more in potential revenue in Las Vegas than Quebec City earns total in a year. When the Seattle Personal income numbers are adjusted for the franchises they already posses, their disposable personal income shrinks down to 44 million, also well below the Las Vegas population.In the above referenced study Las Vegas has scored a perfect score of 100 for the NFL, NHL, NBA, and the MLS. Seattle received a “Borderline Capacity” rating of 88 for the NHL, rating higher for an NBA Team than for hockey, and the other major player Quebec City rated as “Inadequate Capacity” with a score of 68, on par with Bakersfield, California. That’s not Las Vegas or the Vegas Hockey Podcast guys talking, that’s what the independent analysis says. 

Las Vegas is the number one ranked city in the United States in the Nielsen TV ratings for combined NBC and NBCSN NHL telecasts for cities with no team. We are ninth when cities with teams are included. Before the current push, we ranked third and thirteenth respectively. That means that for 21 other US-based NHL cities, we watch more hockey than you do. This proves there are good hockey fans that live in Las Vegas, because  someone here is tuning in, and it isn’t tourists. We will not rely on the 41 million visitors a year, many of whom head into town during the long cold winters up north, to “fill the arena”. This has been put forth as both a positive and a negative in different articles based on the agenda of the author. Quite the contrary, we believe they will be lucky to get a ticket. Winnipeg selling out their 13,000 ticket allowance as fast as they did was fantastic. Congratulations. And congratulations on a great season. The Jets did well this year, making the playoffs for the first time in their reincarnated state. However, when their tickets went on sale, they knew they had a team coming, and knew they had a second chance to have a team there. In their first year back in Winnipeg they generated 13.3 million dollars in surplus operating revenue, according to Forbes NHL valuation list. In just three years they have slipped to 3.3 million in operating revenue, even as their on ice performance has increased dramatically in quality. A lot of this is probably based on the weakening Canadian dollar, which continues to be an issue. The latest ticket sale numbers in Las Vegas have now neared 14,000, with 11,500 confirmed to be in the private sector. This was mandated by the NHL to measure the grass-roots viability of a team here. Hockey Vision Las Vegas was not allowed to accept corporate or bulk ticket deposits until the magic number of 10,000 sold was passed. We have sold 11,000 to 12,000 season tickets to the private sector, including completely selling out the P6 section and according to the folks at LV Wants Hockey, are within 20 seats of selling out the P1 section, the most expensive section, with 3 year commitments required. These are full season commitments, as the half and quarter season packages did not go on sale until May 27th. when we add in the corporate sales the total sales figures approach 14,000, and all the luxury boxes have been leased with ten-year commitments. That alone would put Las Vegas 28th in the league in bodies through the door. When the partial season plans are added in the projections say up to 15,500 in deposits could be expected, putting the Las Vegas team 25th in the league before single game tickets and walk ups. Meaning, Las Vegas will have sold more tickets than 5 other franchises to a team that does not exist,  and has no promise of existing, like Winnipeg had. Is it really so hard to fathom that out of the estimated 130,000 “avid” hockey fans that Mr. Foley’s polls and research show live here full-time, another 2,000 will show up on most nights to round things out? This would be akin to announcing this awesome winter concert series in a brand new arena for 41 nights a year and putting tickets on sale but there would be no bands booked. How many tickets would you sell for that? Not as many as Mr. Foley has sold for hockey, that’s for sure.   To compare Las Vegas with either Winnipeg or Arizona to predict attendance is a flawed analysis, but the ticket sale comparison is valid, in our opinion. Those tickets have been sold, and all the projections I have seen show that when the team actually exists, more season tickets will be sold. (DUH)

If you want a player’s perspective of the fan base in Las Vegas, take it from Clint Malarchuk. He played in Quebec City AND Las Vegas in the 90’s for the IHL Las Vegas Thunder.  In 93-94 their first season, they drew over 8,000 fans per game. At a time when the population was around 400,000. They sustained 90-95% of that until it was announced that The Thomas and Mack was not renewing their lease. At VegasHockeyPodcast.Com we spoke with Clint at length about both markets and their fans. The link above is just a small sample of our talk. If we have intrigued you, you can listen to the show on Soundcloud or on ITunes . His candor on the fans here in Las Vegas will probably surprise most traditional hockey fans, especially coming from a good Canadian Son like Clint !!

The reasons most often cited that a team won’t work in Las Vegas are easily debated. Like the tired old “there is so much else to do there”. Locals don’t do the strip, thanks. WE spend our time hiking in Red Rock Canyon, skiing, snowboarding, and camping at Mt. Charleston just 50 minutes from down town or fishing, boating and swimming at Lake Mead just another 50 minutes the other way. You know, like “normal” people. We leave the nonsense on the strip and downtown to the 41 million tourists. Or how about “the locals work odd hours, everyone will be at work” Really? Try driving on any freeway here during a traditional rush hour time and tell me no one is going to work from 9-5. We have seen estimates that a third of our population is at work from 2-10 PM by the anti Vegas crowd. That’s just not true. Over 700,000 people going to work at the casinos every day on Swing Shift? N0. Sure, we have some swing shift workers, but so does Detroit. They managed to sell a couple of tickets to their hockey games, last time I checked. “The warm weather climate doesn’t work for hockey”. With the average low temperature here from November through February at around forty degrees, and plenty of days below freezing, we won’t be running into the hockey rink to cool down, as I have seen written many times. Do these people think it’s a hundred degrees here all year round? It’s misinformed statements like these that make us chuckle and say, “just you wait”. For the financial abilities of warm weather cities to support NHL hockey teams, we will explore that in-depth in an upcoming episode of the podcast, and our usual summary blog. Suffice to say that LA, Anaheim, San Jose, and Tampa Bay and Dallas are selling their fair share of tickets far from the Canadian border while the bottom six in attendance show two New York area teams, and the Winnipeg Jets.  There are as many cold weather, so-called traditional cities that are losing money regularly as well, like the Minnesota Wild. They recently needed the State of Hockey to forgive 32 million dollars in arena debt just to stay viable and they still have had 5 straight years of negative operating revenue, according to Forbes. Climate and geography may play a role, but it is a small one.

So, if anyone has a best argument of, “It’s too far from Canada”, or cute comments about a players stupid actions at a pool here in town, or “there is too much else to do there”, as if locals spend all their time in casinos, hopefully we have presented enough counter points for the reader to consider the probability that Las Vegas is ready for an NHL team, and will support her for years to come. From the strongest financial bid in North America, to the most viable economic marketplace, a freshly researched and verified fan base that is buying up season tickets to a franchise that doesn’t exist, one thing is certain…Las Vegas wants hockey!

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Mark Warner

Vegas Hockey Podcast