Who could have predicted this? When the National Hockey League announced that they would be putting the leagues thirty-first franchise in the desert of Las Vegas there were plenty of cynics. Not only was the NHL trying to put another team in the desert then a traditional hockey market, but many saw this as another expansion franchise that it would take years to reach relevancy. Less than a calendar year after the first puck was dropped in Sin City the Vegas Golden Knights and the NHL have hit the jackpot.
It’s fitting to see the Vegas Golden Knights as the team that defied all the odds in their inaugural season. Taking advantage of the new expansion draft the roster was filled with young talent and solid veterans that turned Vegas into the storyline of the season. Even with the early hardships with an injury bug that decimated the team’s goaltending depth the team still finished with one of the league’s best records at 51-24-7. Even with the team falling in five games in the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s clear that this team has a bright future.
What people aren’t talking about is what the success in Vegas means for the league’s aggressive expansion plan. Don’t forget that Gary Bettman said he could imagine a 34 team league back in 2017 and the NHL has set a fee for cities looking for an expansion franchise. In fact the league is closing in on team number 32 in Seattle has an ownership group has already started a season ticket drive and the franchise is hoping to hit the ice for the 2020-2021 season.
For a city that wants a major league franchise or looking to add another team the success in Vegas and the generous expansion draft could give a team the opportunity to be competitive from day one. With other league’s not looking into expansion and with expansion teams in the NBA, NFL, and MLB toiling in obscurity for years it makes the NHL a more enticing investment for a city that wants a major league team. Even with a $650 Million expansion fee for a new franchise, it still cheaper to get a NHL franchise then getting and NBA and NFL franchise where recent sales of franchises in those leagues have been valued in the billion dollar range.
Meanwhile, the expansion would be beneficial for the owners in the league. The would receive an expansion fee from these new teams, as they would split up the expansion fees from these cities. With Seattle closing in on a team, it will be interesting to see if there will be any other movement in the NHL whether through expansion or relocation. There have been cities that have expressed interest in both the United States and Canada for potential franchises. These include cities like Quebec, Hamilton, Kansas City, and Hartford who have expressed interest in hosting a hockey franchise.
The success of the Vegas Golden Knights has been huge for the NHL. Not only do they have a successful franchise in a new market, but the league’s new expansion format has set the league up for the potential for the next wave of expansion franchises. No matter how you look at it, it’s clear the Vegas experiment has been a resounding success.