Las Vegas lands expansion franchise as NHL adds 31st team

Wed Jun 22, 2016 5:28pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - The National Hockey League decided on Wednesday to roll the dice on expanding to Las Vegas, making the league the first to put a major professional sports team in the resort city known primarily for gambling.

The unanimous decision to award a 31st franchise, which required approval from a two-thirds majority of the owners, was announced by Commissioner Gary Bettman and marks the first expansion since 2000 when Columbus and Minnesota began play.

Bettman also said the board decided to defer Quebec City's application for expansion due in large part to the volatility of the Canadian dollar.

"We think this is a tremendously exciting opportunity not just for Las Vegas but for the league as well," Bettman told news conference in Las Vegas.

"This expansion comes at a time when our league is more competitive than ever, ownership is stronger than ever, the talent base is more talented than ever and the business and future opportunities for the business are greater than ever."

The Vegas team, which will begin play in the 2017-18 NHL season, is being headed by billionaire businessman Bill Foley, who is the chairman of U.S. title insurance services provider Fidelity National Financial FNF.N.

Foley, who is gambling a $500 million franchise fee that Las Vegas will support an NHL team, got plenty of interest when a ticket drive launched last year secured over 14,000 season-ticket deposits.

"Well Las Vegas we did it. Wasn't easy was it?" said Foley. "Our great sports town now has a major league franchise, the NHL.   Continued...

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports