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Live, from the Sphere (in a hat trick of firsts), it’s the NHL Draft

Updated May 8, 2024 - 9:31 am

The Sphere is taking a break from jam bands with a hockey-style shift change.

The venue is hosting its first made-for-TV event in June, as the NHL draft plays to Las Vegas for the first time.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the official announcement during Tuesday night’s NHL draft lottery, broadcast from NHL Network’s studio in Secaucus, N.J.

The NHL Draft will take place June 28 (Round 1, televised on ESPN and ESPN+ starting at 4 p.m. PT) and June 29 (Rounds 2-7, televised on ESPN+ and NHL Network starting at 8:30 a.m. PT).

The Sphere has thus far been the home to dazzling productions by U2 and Phish, which most recently headlined a four-show series ending April 21. Dead and Company opens May 16 and continues for 24 shows running May 16-July 24.

Consider the draft a cool breeze during that stretch.

“Hosting the 2024 NHL Draft at Sphere perfectly captures Las Vegas’ evolution as the Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World,” Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill said in a statement.

The tourism official also reminded that the Golden Knights are still Stanley Cup champs even after losing to the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs.

“Las Vegas has been a hockey town since the puck dropped at the first Golden Knights game in 2017,” Hill said. “As the reigning Stanley Cup champions, we couldn’t be more thrilled that the NHL chose Las Vegas and this truly innovative venue to welcome its next generation of players.”

The league is pleased to play pioneer for yet another major sporting event in Las Vegas.

“The NHL is proud to bring the first sports event and the first live television broadcast to Sphere,” NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer said. “Together with the amazing team at Sphere, we plan to deliver an NHL Draft like no other, introducing the bright future of hockey in an innovative and exhilarating setting.”

The setting will be populated by NHL club executives, scouts and coaches on the NHL draft floor. Thousands of fans and hundreds of media members are expected to be on-site.

Las Vegas is familiar with partnering on NHL parties and events. Venues where the NHL Awards have been staged include Pearl at the Palms from 2009-2011, Encore at Wynn in 2012 and 2014, MGM Grand Garden in 2015, The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel (today’s Theater at Virgin Hotel) in 2016 and 2018 and Mandalay Bay Events Center (today’s Michelob Ultra Arena) in 2019.

The 2017 NHL expansion draft was held at T-Mobile Arena, the Knights’ home ice.

“Sphere continues to establish itself as a premier destination for some of the most highly anticipated events in sports and entertainment,” said Joel Fisher, executive vice president, marquee events and operations for MSG Entertainment, who oversees marquee events for Sphere. “We’re pleased to welcome the NHL Draft, and look forward to showcasing Sphere’s next-generation capabilities both in person and around the world via the first live television broadcast from the venue.”

What Works In Vegas

Los Bukis: The Las Vegas Residency at Dolby Live. The first Spanish-language headlining residency is selling out the venue. The band is back Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; continuing July 12, 13, 17, 19 and 20, and will close this historic chapter in Latin music on September 13, 14, 18, 20 and 21. I’m told even non-Spanish-speaking audiences are blown away by the presentation.

Singer Marco Antonio Solís is back with the veteran band, after several years as a star solo artist. It has been put in context that his participation is akin to Justin Timberlake performing again with N’Sync. Coincidentally, Timberlake (without N’Sync, and in English) headlines T-Mobile Arena on Friday and Saturday.

Sun sets

We can confidently impart that vendors at Virgin Hotel are happy that Virgin reps are stepping in as the hotel’s casino operator at the end of the year. Mohegan Indian Tribe and the resort are ending its management partnership at the end of the year. Expect an enhanced emphasis on marketing to locals, tourists and convention business. To all potential customers, in other words.

The casino at the hotel is front and center, but is too often sparsely populated. It took sports book Betfred nearly two years after the casino opened to obtain proper licensing to take wagers (until then, the seating area was a great Kats! Bureau).

Elbert “Ickey” Woods, the former UNLV star running back and Cincinnati Bengals’ star rookie, made the first wager in February 2023, a moneyline bet on the Eagles to win the Super Bowl over the Chiefs. K.C.’s win was Ickey’s loss.

We are eager to see the return of the Center Bar, a piece of Hard Rock Hotel history that can drive conversation among locals. Virgin President Cliff Atkinson says “legal agreements” are being arranged to begin work on serious changes to the casino floor.

And we’d applaud returning the red double-decker bus to prominence. The rig has been parked on the first floor of the parking garage since the Virgin relaunch ceremony in March 2021. This beast is beautifully painted in psychedelic, retro-‘60 theme. Not to throw anyone under the double-decker, but this vehicle has zero promotional impact in its current spot.

A word from the owner

I hit up Raiders owner Mark Davis for thoughts about the Tom Brady roast on Netflix, which premiered on Cinco de Mayo. “Aggressive!” was the one-word reply, followed by a halo emoji. Can’t argue that.

Cool Hang Alert

Piano master Wes Winters is back at South Point’s Grandview Lounge at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, continuing May 17-18. No cover, no tickets, no hassles, enjoy this vintage showman.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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