NHL, producer perfect Vegas fit


If it quacks like a duck these days, it's a Stanley Cup champion.

It's hard to ignore certain key major sporting events, such as yesterday's Belmont Stakes or the ongoing NBA Finals. Even Major League Baseball's draft drew a decent enough television audience on Thursday.

But two National Hockey League teams, one of which -- Anaheim -- is an easy drive from here, played for the most precious piece of sports hardware in obscurity way up the dial on a channel called Versus.

When you pit hockey versus, well, just about anything, it's coming up on the losing end in terms of TV viewers. So it's a bit hard to envision that sport breaking the major-league ice here in Las Vegas.

But the NHL has been successful, at least for its franchise owners, in cities with climates where the sport can only be played indoors.

So if the report in last Wednesday's SportsBusiness Daily pans out, Las Vegas could actually be the city of second dreams for the NHL. The report said film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer was negotiating with the NHL to own a franchise in Las Vegas. Bruckheimer has also reportedly been in discussion with the Anschutz Entertainment Group to build or operate an arena in Las Vegas for an NHL team.

If, in fact, the beleaguered league does authorize a franchise here, Bruckheimer is quite possibly the best one to market it.

Not only has he struck it big in Hollywood with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "CSI" brands, he's made a name for himself as someone whose films you can't miss if you seek the signature summer blockbuster experience.

Bruckheimer turned an aging Disneyland ride ("Pirates") into a major draw again -- and actually drew people to see a talking kangaroo that only mimicked the wisecracking marsupial from the trailer for a few minutes at the end of the film. If he could get an audience for "Kangaroo Jack" and make teenage girls want to wear leg warmers in the '80s thanks to "Flashdance," he can market the heck out of a Vegas hockey team.

The team could be called the Diamond Dogs, in homage to the Ving Rhames character in Bruckheimer's classic "Con Air."

He could start each game by beaming his production company's signature sequence onto the ice. You've probably seen the video played before one of his movies -- you zip along a two-lane road under tornado skies until lightning strikes a dead tree, bringing it back to life.

The team could be tied to a reality show. This is Bruckheimer we're talking about.

Once again, for all of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman's cheerleading, the private sector has to be the agent to cajole any professional sports league to move here. There has to be an arena and someone with the resources to buy a franchise.

Hockey franchises are prospering in warmer climates. The past three Stanley Cups were taken by the Ducks of Anaheim, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

So it's not only possible to sell hockey in the desert (remember, the minor-league Wranglers are still here), it's possible to have what Vegas loves the most -- a winner.

Most casino executives I've spoken with believe major-league sports will be in Las Vegas within five or six years. Maybe it's time to stop courting the prom queen and go with someone who'll dance.

Summer reading

Nine-month schools ended their academic years last week, just after the Legislature allocated a whopping $63 million to expand programs. State education officials and superintendents had declared a statewide need for $1 billion in new K-12 spending.

Many parents will still be left to "pay for K," shelling out $300 a month for a longer kindergarten school day at participating elementary campuses.

Thankfully, there are free things to do with your kids this summer. And my family highly recommends Club Read through the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District.

It's a reading incentive program where preschoolers, independent readers and teens can each earn cool prizes by hitting the benchmarks. For every five books or activities completed, the child gets a small prize (a mood pencil, book pack and gold medal are some of the awards.) Each child can also get a pass to the Lied Discovery Children's Museum and, if they stick with it, two entries into a drawing for four round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines.

If you complete 10 activities or books, you get to pick your very own book to keep.

The prizes are slightly different in the teen program.

Anyway, it gives kids something free to do and might just get them hooked on Harry Potter or Junie B. Jones.

Different branches also have special events over the summer, including free movies and concerts, storytelling, puppet and magic shows and several Harry Potter events.

For a complete list of activities, check out www.lvccld.org. The home page is counting down to the July 21 release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Just scroll down and look for the Club Read icon.

The program runs through July, or until the prizes are gone. You can sign up at any branch, and your kid can hit the first of 20 goals just by getting a library card.

Erin Neff's column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at eneff@reviewjournal.com.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.