Media members mixed about Las Vegas’ fit in NHL

What’s been said about Las Vegas’ ability to sustain an NHL team — now that a new expansion team is expected to be made official on June 22?

Here’s a recap of what’s been written since yesterday:

— Ken Campbell of The Hockey News wrote he’s skeptical the city will be able to support a team long-term.

He said while fans will likely watch live and at home in the first five years and during any periods of success, lean years could cause a steep dropoff in attendance and television viewership.

Campbell questioned whether ownership would continue to pour resources into the team if that happened, and pointed out NHL teams in non-traditional markets struggle to produce revenue.

The San Jose Sharks will not make any money in 2015-16 with an average attendance of 16,746, 12 home playoff games, and a poor local television contract, he said.

— Eric Duhatschek of The Globe and Mail commented the NHL believes Vegas can be different from other warm-weather franchises because the city should be able to come up with a unique business model.

The new franchise will be able to use traditional revneue sources while also tapping into the tourism Vegas draws.

The city is a unique hospitality hub too because visitors intend to go out on the town, and the NHL will now be another option.

FiveThirtyEight re-posted a Nate Silver article from April 22, 2015 after the announcement, in which he said Vegas is a “terrible place” for the NHL.

Silver argued the NHL should be putting more teams in Canada, where there are more hockey fans. He cited a 2013 analysis piece he wrote that said there are fewer hockey fans in Vegas than in some of the NHL’s smallest markets.

Attendance could also become an issue, Silver contended, bringing up the city’s past with professional sports teams. The Las Vegas Wranglers’ attendance was just below the ECHL average from 2010-2014, while in the same time period the 51s’ per-game attendance was 25 percent off the PCL average.

— Claire McNear of The Ringer speculated pro sports would keep coming to Vegas despite reservations.

She pointed out the city’s population has doubled since 1992 to more than 600,000 people, and it is currently the second-largest metropolitan area in the country without a major professional sports team.

Vegas has a lot of money to go around, McNear said, because T-Mobile Arena was built entirely with private funds and billionaire Bill Foley, the man primarily responsible for the city’s NHL team, has already sold 14,000 season ticket deposits.

Pro sports leagues have also softened their stance towards gambling, in part due to the prevalence of daily fantasy sports, she wrote.

— Scott Stinson of the National Post suggested the NHL made the move largely to pocket $500 million from Foley, the league’s expansion fee.

He described the move as a large gamble, because he expressed skepticism the team’s announced ticket sales showed a lot of interest in the team. Stinson pointed out season tickets are still available while the Winnipeg Jets sold out their season ticket allotment in 17 minutes when they joined the league.

Stinson said Vegas is a small market in the desert, and many of its residents work nights in the service industry and won’t be able to attend games. He concluded visitors will have to help sustain the franchise, but said that’s a risky venture.

— John Vogl of the Buffalo News wrote the NHL wants Vegas to be more competitive than previous expansion clubs, so player protection rules will be stricter than before.

Teams will be allowed to protect only one goaltender in the expansion draft, so teams with two established netminders like the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins will face tough decisions.

The Vegas team will also be positioned well in the 2017 NHL Draft, as it will reportedly received the same lottery odds as the team that finishes 27th in the league.

Here are a few more collected thoughts from those who cover the league:

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