What Las Vegas Means To Bettman, NHL

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

I miss the good old days of the NHL awards show.  You know, that night when the best of the best hockey players in the world gathered in Toronto, a stones throw a way from where the immortals of our favorite game are enshrined to be honored by the general managers, hockey writers, and in one instance, their peers.

It was a black tie event, very little glitz, little glamour – it was almost broadcast like a regular season game.  The trophies were brought from their resting place in the Hockey Hall of Fame – and the winner was actually presented with the full size version of his award, if only to hold for the brief few second he stood on stage.

Of all the gimmicks the NHL has – it was one night that I looked forward to seeing, when select players were rewarded for battling it out for 82 games.  After the 2008 award show however, the NHL decided that Toronto wasn’t good enough for the ranks of the elite, and the entire show was shipped across the country, and plopped into a desert oasis – trading the lights of the adored hockey mecca of Toronto, for the up all night flash and dance of Sin City.

For this hockey fan – and maybe for more; I will still watch the award show, if I have time; awaiting the day that it returns home, and the honor and prestige the event deserves is returned.  Unfortunately – as long as Gary Bettman is at the helm of the NHL; it will be Vegas or Bust for the NHL – and that might infer to more than just the award show.

Could Gary Bettman be solidifying the possibility of an NHL franchise in Las Vegas?  At the time the Phoenix Coyotes were playing in the desert, and I am sure talks of expanding in the desert were on the lips of the commissioner prior to the talks of bankruptcy and another league owned team were on his mind.  The move in 2009 could have prefaced an expansion team in the near future, only being held up by the on going owner saga in Phoenix.  Immediate expansion into the area might not be the case.  The longer the NHL stays viable in Las Vegas as an award show – the more ground Gary Bettman has at selling the concept of an expansion franchise to the board of governors when the time comes.  Its not like hockey has never been played in Las Vegas.

The NHL is going to expand eventually – when were not sure.  If Bettman can assure the powers that be that the 30 teams under his watch are viable, then adding a Las Vegas, a Kansas City, a Seattle are more likely.

What it boils down to is money.  With another CBA talk looming and the salary cap rising even higher (were almost double the initial salary cap already) the league is going to have to get creative on how to bring in more revenue to the teams – even if that means diluting the talent level down by adding more teams if necessary.

Star power is another great attraction.  Look at the attendance of the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup games.  There were stars galore in attendance.  The NHL paraded out horrible jokes through star such as Matthew Perry, Kevin Connolly, Colin Hanks and Vince Vaughn as they continue to flaunt their game to the stars – hoping to grab hold of more fans because they see television and movie icons past and present on stage awarding modern day heroes of the game.  How about using legends of the game – letting Dominik Hasek give out the Vezina, Wayne Gretzky the Hart, Nicklas Lidstrom give out the Norris.  It will be a sad day for hockey when the great Ted Lindsay passes away – not only because it will be the loss of a good man who led a full life – but because he is the only hockey related person handing out awards these days.

Whether we like it or not, the award show is in Vegas for the foreseeable future.  An impending sign that the NHL could be in Vegas forever.

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Tags: Award Show Gary Bettman Las Vegas NHL Toronto

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