weather icon Clear

NHL insiders say Las Vegas could field competitive team soon

They call him “The Architect,” and with good reason.

When it came to building a hockey team, Bill Torrey knew what he was doing.

Torrey, the man behind the New York Islanders’ dynasty in the 1980s when they won four consecutive Stanley Cups, said whoever team owner Bill Foley picks to run his NHL franchise in Las Vegas will have a big edge over what Torrey had to work with.

“There’s more avenues now,” said Torrey, 82, now a special adviser for the Florida Panthers. “Free agency is something I didn’t have. That’s a big card to play.”


David Poile agrees. Poile, president of hockey operations and general manager of the Nashville Predators, said with a salary cap that might be around $74 million, the Las Vegas team will have opportunities to sign players he had no chance of acquiring in 1998.

“It might be fairer in that we have a cap system and greater free agency now,” Poile said. “In a lot of ways, an expansion team can get competitive sooner than later.

“We didn’t get any young players when we started. We had a lot of journeymen who could play in the NHL. But we also had a lot of turnover on our roster. There wasn’t as much continuity as you see today.”

Phil Esposito didn’t have that option, either, when he co-founded the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. The Hall of Fame center said he wished he had the same opportunity the Las Vegas team will have when it begins play in the 2017-18 season.

“It’s completely different because of the way the game is played now,” Esposito, 74, said. “You’re going to have guys who will love to live and play in Las Vegas. Plus, the way the game is played now, you’re going to want guys who can skate and move, and with hockey an international game, the player pool is so much deeper than when we started in Tampa.”

Torrey led the Oakland Seals to the playoffs in their inaugural season in 1968-69, but after Charlie O. Finley bought the team in 1970, Torrey was fired a year later, something that benefited the Islanders. And when the Panthers joined the NHL in 1993, they chose Torrey to build their franchise.

“I think it always comes down to watching a player and seeing if he fits what your organization wants,” Torrey said. “There’s analytics now and stats for everything. But, for me, it comes down to whether a guy can really play as to whether or not we’re interested in him.”

Esposito said garnering interest in a Las Vegas NHL team will be easier than in the Tampa franchise’s infancy.

“The game has so much exposure now,” he said. “You can follow it on your phone. When we started the Lightning, I would go to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and give tickets away. We just wanted to get them into the building. Once we did that, we had them, because once they saw an NHL game in person, they loved it and were coming back. We’d tell them, ‘Don’t forget to tell a friend,’ and the next game, sure enough, they’d bring a friend.”

Poile said: “Hockey is a game that sells itself. It’s about getting the fans out there. We are a nontraditional hockey market here in Nashville, but we were able to sell the game to people and get them to see it in person.”

Esposito said having ties to the community will be almost as important as winning for Las Vegas to be successful.

“Every player we drafted we had go out in the community and sell the Lightning and the NHL,” he said. “That’s the big thing for the Vegas team — making sure they connect with the community.


“The one big thing Vegas has starting out is they’ve had hockey. They had an IHL team (Thunder) and an ECHL team (Wranglers). People there know about hockey, so you may not have to educate as many of them. Our first year, we printed pamphlets up and distributed them to people explaining what offsides and icing were.”

Foley’s most important hires will be his president and general manager, Torrey and Esposito said.

“You’re laying the foundation for what you want your organization to be,” Torrey said. “So it’s important you bring in people who have a shared vision and commitment to the franchise.”

Esposito said: “Will it take time for them to be competitive? Of course. But if they do it right, there’s no question it will work. But that means hiring the right hockey people and let them do their job.

“I don’t know Mr. Foley. But he seems to be a smart guy. I’m sure he’s going to find the right people and allow them to run the team.”

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow on Twitter: @stevecarprj


Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Golden Knights Videos
Vegas Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz on the Golden Edge Podcast
Review-Journal reporters Ben Gotz and David Schoen talk with Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz about his experiences with LeBron James, the team's new initiatives, a possible MLS expansion team and more.
George McPhee Conference Call on Nikita Gusev trade - VIDEO
Golden Knights President of Operations George McPhee answers questions on a conference call about the teams most recent trade of Nikita Gusev to the New Jersey Devils.
Vegas Golden Knight's Deryk Engelland Happy to Re-Sign - Video
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland is happy to stay in Las Vegas after signing a one-year deal with the team.
Golden Aces hold Tryouts For 2019-2020 Season - Video
The Golden Aces hold tryouts for the 2019-2020 season for the Golden Knights.
Golden Knight's owner Bill Foley's House for sale in The Ridges - Real Estate Millions
Vegas Golden Knights, Fleury Make Day for Critically Ill Teenager in ESPN “My Wish” - Video
A 13-year-old Las Vegas boy who has faced Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treated to a special day by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights in a new ESPN “My Wish” Series feature debuting Wednesday, July 17, on SportsCenter. In the feature, Doron Coldwell spends a day with the team and even gets an opportunity to replace his favorite player, three-time Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury, in the net.
Golden Knights Sell "Battle Worn Armor" To Season Ticket Holders - Video
The Golden Knights sell their "battle worn" apparel throughout both of the teams seasons including pucks, sticks, helmets and skates.
Summerlin 4th of July Parade - VIDEO
On July 4th Summerlin will be hosting the 25th annual Summerlin Council Patriotic Parade, an event that has grown massively over the years
Golden Knights McPhee talks on the first day of NHL free agency - VIDEO
Golden Knights incoming president of operations George McPhee addresses the media as free agency starts.
Golden Knights Trade Colin Miller as Development Camp ends - VIDEO
George McPhee speaks to the media following the end of the Golden Knights development camp.
Golden Knights Development Camp Day 4 - VIDEO
Nic Hague stands out at day 4 of Golden Knights development camp.
Golden Knights Hold First Scrimmage of Development Camp - Video
The first of three scrimmages was held at the 2019 Golden Knights Development Camp. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writers Adam Hill and David Schoen discuss what stood out to them.
Golden Knights George McPhee Discusses Erik Haula Trade - Video
A day after it was announced that Erik Haula had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, incoming President of Hockey Operations George McPhee spoke to the media discussing the move.
Golden Knights Trade Erik Haula - Video
The Golden Knights have traded Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for prospect Nicolas Roy. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writer Adam Hill discuss the trade.
Golden Knights Coaches Looking for Veterans to Step Up in Development Camp - Video
Day two of the 2019 Golden Knights Development Camp is in the books. Director of Player Development Wil Nichol says his staff is looking for the veterans of the camp to step up and be leaders to the younger guys, while at the same time doing their best to impress the coaching staff.
Golden Knights Draft Player with Strong Hockey Bloodlines - Video
The Golden Knights drafted Mason Primeau in the 5th round of the 2019 NHL Draft. Primeau is no stranger to professional hockey, both his dad (Wayne Primeau) and his uncle (Keith Primeau) played in the NHL.
Golden Knights Kelly McCrimmon Talks Development Camp - VIDEO
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon talks about what he expects from everyone at development camp on their first day.
Golden Knights Dylan Coghlan On Veteran Experience - VIDEO
Golden Knights defenseman Dylan Coghlan talks about his veteran experience playing in Chicago and development camp.
Golden Knights President George McPhee talks about Williams Karlsson's 8 year deal
George McPhee presser highlights June 25, 2019.
Golden Knights Center William Karlsson speaks to media about 8 year contract
William Karlsson presser highlights June 25, 2019.
Golden Knights Development Camp at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada
For the third consecutive year, Vegas Golden Knights Development Camp participants participated in a special community event at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
2019 NHL Awards Highlight Video
The 2019 NHL Awards took place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. Though Vegas Golden Knights forward Mark Stone came close to winning the best defensive forward trophy, St. Louis Blues center Ryan O' Reilly took home the coveted Frank Selke Trophy. Jason Zucker, who was raised in Las Vegas and plays for the Minnesota Wild, accepted the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarianism. Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov took home the NHL's MVP Award. (Heidi Fang / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gary Bettman discusses NHL rule changes - VIDEO
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the media after Wednesday’s Board of Governor’s meeting.
Golden Knights' Mark Stone up for Selke Trophy
Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone is a finalist for the Selke Trophy. The award goes to the best defensive forward in the NHL. Stone led the league in takeaways last season with 122. His competition is St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly... And Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. Stone will find out if he wins Wednesday at the NHL Awards.
Vegas Golden Knights announce preseason schedule
The Golden Knights announced their preseason schedule Tuesday, as well as the date of their rookie camp and training camp.
Mark Stone and Stanley Cup visit MGM Grand
Mark Stone took photos and signed autographs for Golden Knights fans at the MGM Grand on Sunday. The Stanley Cup also made its way into the MGM Grand Main Lobby. The most revered trophy in hockey is on display to celebrate the upcoming 2019 NHL awards at the Mandalay Bay Center on June 19th. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights, Raiders Unite for Charity Softball Game - Video Highlights
Golden Knights and Raiders players alike were more than excited to join together in a charity softball game to raise money for pediatric cancer. Players from both teams cannot wait for the Raiders to arrive in Las Vegas so more joint events can take place.
Golden Knights and Raiders Raise over $100K in Charity Softball Game - Video Highlights
In the first-ever Battle For Vegas Charity Softball Game, the Golden Knights and Raiders raised $136,000 for the Tyler Robinson Foundation. At the end of the nights, it was the Raiders that raised the Battle For Vegas trophy, after beating the Golden Knights 20-16. Take a look at some of the highlights from the game!
Golden Knights' Reilly Smith Ready to Battle for Vegas - Video
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith is ready to Battle For Vegas in a charity softball game that will feature various celebrity athletes, including teammates Jonathan Marchessault, Ryan Reaves and Erik Haula. Smith's team will face off against former Raider Marcus Allen and his teammates, including Vontaze Burfict, Josh Jacobs and Maurice Hurst. The charity softball game is set to take place on Saturday, June 15th at the Las Vegas Ballpark.
Golden Knights Will Have a New Home in Henderson - Video
The Golden Knights are saying goodbye to the Henderson Convention Center and hello to the team's new hockey facility that will be located in the second largest city in Nevada. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)