If the NHL is going to succeed in Las Vegas, it won’t be with half of T-Mobile Arena filled with fans of the visiting team.
“We are going to get our local residents to be our supporters,” the expansion franchise’s owner, Bill Foley, told the Las Vegas Sun. “They are the ones who are going to come to watch us play hockey.”
Foley had previously joked to ESPN, “I don’t want to see everyone in the stands with a Canucks jersey on. I’m not trying to promote the Red Wings.”
Now, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a strong contingent of opposition fans at a lot of games. Las Vegas is a tourism mecca. Last year, over 40 million visited.
But prior to yesterday’s big announcement, Las Vegas was also the largest market in the United States without a major-league team. In terms of population, its metropolitan area is about the same size of Columbus, a bit bigger than Nashville.
“What hockey will do for Las Vegas is give it an identity that is unto itself, as opposed to the Strip,” said Foley, per Sportsnet. “Because really the local residents aren’t about the Strip.”
The question now is whether the locals are about the NHL.