The NHL isn’t sold on Las Vegas, but they aren’t saying no to the city either. After ground was broken on a 20,000 seat arena in Vegas, the rumors re-surfaced that Commissioner Gary Bettman would be interested in expansion via Sin City. Bettman addressed those questions via the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Right now, we’re not looking to expand. I know Las Vegas is an important city. Whether or not it’s a city for the NHL to put a team in is still to be determined. We have not done any investigating as to whether or not the city could support the NHL or looked at potential ownership groups. If the owners were to approve expansion, we would certainly begin looking more closely at Las Vegas and other potential markets.”
The biggest factor working in favor of Vegas is the current discrepancy in the NHL standings. There are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the Western Conference. While Quebec City and other East Coast cities have made strong cases for an NHL team, the numbers simply don’t bear more teams in the East unless Bettman decides to move a team like Detroit or Columbus back to the West Coast, which only harms those franchises.
The ideal scenario for the NHL would be to snag two teams in the West who have built arenas (like Vegas is doing and Seattle will hopefully some day do) so they can have an evenly balanced league. Whether or not that second Western spot resides in Las Vegas remains to be seen, but for now don’t count it out.