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Gaming Guru

Todd Dewey
 

Poker pro Negreanu wants a piece of a Vegas NHL team

6 August 2015

Toronto native Daniel Negreanu — poker's all-time leading money winner with more than $30 million in career earnings — wants to buy a slice of Las Vegas' NHL expansion franchise if, as expected, the city is awarded one.

"The idea of owning a piece of an NHL team is the coolest thing ever," Negreanu, 41, told the Toronto Sun.

Billionaire businessman Bill Foley has partnered with the Maloof family as owners of a potential Las Vegas' NHL team that would play at the $375 million AEG-MGM arena under construction behind New York-New York on the Strip.

Negreanu helped spearhead Foley's season ticket drive that has sold more than 13,000 season tickets.

"I'll be at every game and maybe have a hockey talk show of my own," Negreanu said. "Right now, the focus is on getting the team."

Foley's VegasWantsHockey website reported Wednesday that the NHL has invited his group to take part in Phase II of the application process to bring an NHL team to Las Vegas. Foley hopes the NHL will approve a team by January that could start play in the 2017-18 season at the aforementioned 17,500-seat arena.

The decision could come as early as September and Negreanu puts the odds of Las Vegas getting a team — which he'd call the Rat Pack — at "99.9 percent."

"I just don't see it not happening. We have a solid owner, an arena and we sold 13,000 season tickets," the six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner said. "Vegas has 2.2 million people. It's a sports town. We've been starving for a professional franchise of any kind for many years.

"People say there's no hockey culture in Vegas. They said the same about San Jose — and now San Jose is Sharks Town. Nobody puts on a party or a show better than Vegas. Even people who don't really love hockey will go for the atmosphere and then we'll explain what is happening (in the game). They'll come to understand it."

Negreanu, aka "Kid Poker," also believes the warm weather and lack of a state income tax will help lure top free agents to the city and build a Stanley Cup contender in short order.

"It won't take us as long to build a winner as people think," he said. "I'd bet on the playoffs in four or five years."