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Steve Carp

Las Vegas continues to wait for NHL team as expansion vote is put on ice

5 November 2015

The decision from the NHL on whether Las Vegas will be awarded an expansion team probably will have to wait until next year.

And for Bill Foley, the businessman trying to bring the city its first major professional sports franchise, and the fans who have invested in the proposed team with deposits on season tickets, it means remaining patient.

The league's executive committee will not meet until the NHL's Board of Governors meetings, scheduled for Dec. 7 and 8 in Pebble Beach, Calif. The 10-man committee has been studying the issue of expansion and is supposed to make its recommendations at some point to the entire 30-member Board of Governors. Las Vegas and Quebec City are vying for expansion teams.

It's unlikely a vote on expansion would be on the agenda for that meeting, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

"Given where we are in the process, it is clear that expansion will not be voted on in December," Daly said Wednesday in an email to the Review-Journal.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman repeatedly has said there is no hard timetable for a decision on expansion, and that the executive committee would discuss the situation before any further action on the subject was taken.

The agenda for the Dec. 7 and 8 meeting will be set the week before. If the owners decide to wait, which appears to be the case, the next opportunity to meet and possibly vote on expansion would be in late January when the NHL has its All-Star Weekend in Nashville, Tenn.

"We knew it was a possibility, and we've been in communication indirectly with the NHL," Foley said. "We know we continue to make progress, and nobody has told us no at this point. So it's still moving forward.

"Obviously, the sooner it gets done, the better. But I understand they want to take their time. It's an important decision. Hopefully we'll know something at the All-Star Game."

Foley said the delays will not affect his plans to begin business operations.

"It doesn't have an impact on our preparations," he said. "We're still looking to build our practice facility, and we can't hire any hockey people until after the season anyway."

Foley made his presentation, as did Quebecor for Quebec City, on Sept. 29 in New York City. Two days later, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs was quoted as saying he wasn't sure if there was enough desire among owners to proceed with expansion.

Foley said he has no plans to attend the Pebble Beach meetings, but he is being patient.

"That's the hard part because we're so anxious to get going," he said. "But we remain optimistic that Las Vegas will have hockey."

The owners have to decide whether expanding to 31 or 32 teams makes financial sense, along with what impact it would have on the quality of play. The price for expansion is expected to be $500 million for each franchise, and it is money the 30 teams would not have to share with the players.

Jacobs is the chairman of the executive committee, which includes Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli, Calgary Flames co-owner Murray Edwards, Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, Toronto Maple Leafs chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

While Jacobs was impressed by Foley's presentation on Sept. 29, which included the fact that more than 13,500 deposits on season tickets have been secured and the $375 million, 17,500-seat MGM-AEG arena is on target to open in mid-April, it may not be enough to sway the executive committee to recommend expansion.