Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu Joins Prospective Las Vegas NHL Ownership Group

Poker pro and transplanted Canadian Daniel Negreanu has confirmed his participation in a prospective ownership group that has designs on bringing a National Hockey League team to Las Vegas.

Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu

Negreanu, a Toronto native and dedicated hockey fan who has called Las Vegas home for the past decade and a half, has been among the most vocal supporters of preliminary efforts to convince the NHL to place a hockey franchise in the desert.

Back on Friday, Negreanu confirmed his participation in the possible ownership group, eventually Tweeting a short running commentary about the group’s plans from his @RealKidPoker Twitter account.  A few of the sample Tweets:

Negreanu wouldn’t likely be more than just a token owner of the possible franchise, which along with Seattle appears to have the inside track on the two new Western Conference expansion franchises the NHL hopes to announce. The primary force behind the possible expansion into Las Vegas is Tallahassee, FL businessman Bill Foley, an insurance-industry billionaire. Foley and the Maloof brothers, the former owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, are the major investors behind the Las Vegas NHL push. Foley would be the primary owner of the franchise, according to a recent Las Vegas Review-Journal story, while the Maloofs would serve as significant minority owners.

Other interested parties, such as Negreanu, may or not be a small part of the ownership group.  Negreanu appears to be part of an associate group called the Las Vegas Founding 50, which in addition to possible token ownership and helping generate community support, would each be charged with selling 60 season tickets. That would amount to 3,000 season ticket sales, and the Vegas group hopes to sell 10,000 season tickets overall, which they hope will convince the NHL and its existing owners to give one of the two expansion teams to the the city.  

A $375 million indoor ice arena is being built behind Vegas’s New York New York casino, and will be owned and operated by MGM Resorts International/Anschutz Entertainment Group.  The ice arena would seat 18,000 and is scheduled to open in April of 2016, making the 2016-17 NHL season the soonest the arena would be available for full-time use. In the meantime, the push is on to sell advance season tickets, with Negreanu and other hockey fanatics leading the way.  Some more from @RealKidPoker on Twitter:

“#VegasWantsHockey” is really only a part of the story; Las Vegas wants a major-league sports franchise. The city is by far the largest major metropolitan area in the United States to not have a franchise in any of the four major professional sports — NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB. Las Vegas and Clark County officials have been repeatedly rebuffed, in part because of Nevada’s legal sports-gambling industry and in part because the city was often viewed as having a very transient, non-loyal population.

Las Vegas does boast a long-time AAA baseball franchise, has hosted an NBA all-star game, and is a mecca for such one-night events as MMA and pro boxing.  Yet despite a metro population of more than two million, the big four haven’t come calling until now… if Foley, the Maloofs and Kid Poker all have their way.

Negreanu’s connection with the would-be ownership group has been played up by both the mainstream and sporting press, such as this recent feature in Sports Illustrated.  Negreanu even took to his personal blog at FullContactPoker to write about the Vegas NHL hopes.  Here’s a sample:

NHL in Las Vegas- I’m personally quite excited about the prospects of an NHL team in Las Vegas and I believe strongly that not only will we get a team, but that hockey will work in this sports starved city. As mentioned previously, the NHL needs to add two teams to the Western Conference and it appears to me that Las Vegas and Seattle are both viable options and frontrunners for a team.

For many, they wonder how it makes sense to play ice hockey in the desert, but I’m sure the same was said years ago when expansion hit sunny California and that experiment has worked quite well with thriving franchises in LA, Anaheim, and San Jose.

San Jose in particular is an example of how well a team can do in a one sport town. The Shark Cage is always sold out and the fans have really grown to love the game.

For now, there would be no competition for the NHL in Las Vegas and I think that bodes well. There are plenty of other reasons I think a team will work in Las Vegas outside of it’s 2.2 million residents.

Negreanu even touched on a couple of reasons naysayers have often said that the NHL might not want to put a team in Nevada, pooh-poohing the old saws that “Vegas isn’t a hockey town” or that corruption is rife in Las Vegas (the sports-betting fears).  Negreanu countered the latter by arguing that given Las Vegas’s history, far more attention would be focused on the city and state and its gambling controls, making it less likely that NHL games in Las Vegas would be corrupted by crime, rather than the other way around.

It remains to be seen how quickly Foley, the Maloofs, and the Founding 50 can reach their advance season-ticket goals.  That more than anything else is likely to determine the NHL’s decision.  One thing’s for sure, however.  If the NHL does put a team in Las Vegas, look for Kid Poker to be in the front row.

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