Former NHL and Las Vegas Thunder Goalie Clint Malarchuk 

For our 50th episode of The Vegas Hockey Podcast we welcome back Clint Malarchuk to talk about Las Vegas Hockey. We cover all the bases including:

  • Clint’s thoughts on the recent George McPhee hiring.
  • The depth of the talent pool in North America and international
  • His very unorthodox idea to increase scoring in the NHL.. ( we LOVE this idea)
  • The challenge of picking the first coach in franchise history
  • Is there anywhere for players to live there?
  • Best shot he faced in the NHL (it’s not who you think)

Just like last time we had a great conversation with Clint, so dial it in and listen up, it’s a great show!

Advertisements

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.
 

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

Episode 3 Eastern Conference Preview

Hello hockey fans and welcome to the blog!  In this post, we will summarize our third episode where we break down the first round in the Eastern Conference. This is the second part of a two-part first round breakdown so let’s get to it !

We started this episode looking at the Rangers Vs. The Penguins.

In the first round Tom and I both think the Rangers will finish the Pens early. With the Pens defense decimated with injuries, the Rangers should have plenty of opportunities at the offensive end, and they can finish! In net… no real contest. Rangers sweep.

Next up was the Lightning and the Red Wings. Tom thinks the Tesla Coil at the arena in Tampa is the deciding factor here, as well as the unsettled state in the pipes for the Wings. Mark believes that hockey does work in Florida, and the Lightning will be wearing a chip on their shoulders in this years playoffs. Both pick Tampa.

Third in the East we looked at the Washington and New York Hockey Islanders. The second series we disagree on. Mark loves the defensive  corps on the Islanders with their experience and the mix of mobility and stay at home styles. Tom thinks Holtby and Ovechkin will carry the Caps.

Finally. What may be the most anticipated series in the first round, Montreal and Ottawa. Wow. The second of the all Canada playoff series here in the first round, the story lines are plentiful. The Canadiens sport the Vezina Trophy favorite Carey Price in net, while “The Hamburglar” holds down the crease for the Sens. Andrew Hammond was the hottest goalie down the stretch, going 20-1-2 since being called up. With Max Pacioretty and his 37 goals questionable for the series, Tom wonders where the scoring comes from for Le Habs. Mark thinks the youth of the Senators and the experience of the Habs should be a factor. Who did we pick? You’ll have to listen here www.Soundcloud.com/VegasHockeyPodcast to find out!!!

As always we love the feedback, so keep tweeting at us over @VegasHockeyPod and E-Mailing us at VegasHockeyPodcast@Yahoo.com We will answer all of your questions or comments ourselves so let them rip!!!