weather icon Clear

Oscar Goodman started Las Vegas’ NHL relationship

The seeds for an NHL team in Las Vegas were planted long before Bill Foley or the Maloof brothers arrived with their flush wallets.

It was a warm September day in 1999 when then-mayor Oscar Goodman went to New York City to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

It was a get-to-know-you kind of meeting, not a let’s-make-a-deal one.

The meeting lasted about an hour, and it was the beginning of the city’s relationship with the NHL. That relationship is expected to culminate in a marriage Wednesday when the league’s Board of Governors meets at Encore and approves expansion to Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season.

“It was a critical day,” Goodman said of the Sept. 28 meeting. “We didn’t know them. They didn’t know us. We were trying to make a positive impression and establish a relationship.”

Goodman, now 76, knew he had to make a convincing argument. The NHL was preparing to expand to Columbus, Ohio, and St. Paul, Minnesota, in a few months, and Goodman wanted to make sure where he stood so he wasn’t wasting his time.

Bettman didn’t mince words. He told Goodman that for Las Vegas to be on the NHL’s radar, it needed a suitable arena, a solid ownership group and a market that was large enough to support the sport.

At the time, Las Vegas was 0-for-3. There was no suitable arena for the NHL, there was no ownership group, and the population in Clark County was just 1.3 million.

“I have no reason to doubt that Las Vegas can be a viable market,” Bettman said after the meeting. “But as I told Mayor Goodman, at the present time, we have no candidates for relocation, and we’re still going through our expansion phase.

“This isn’t a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ issue. There are other cities we’re talking to — Portland, Houston and now, Las Vegas. We’ll continue to keep the lines of communication open.”

Fast forward to February 2015, when Foley launched his season-ticket drive at the MGM Grand with Bettman in attendance. T-Mobile Arena was under construction. Foley, a billionaire and the head of Fidelity National Financial, and the Maloofs were the primary investors. And Southern Nevada’s population had grown to more than 2 million.

It took almost two decades, but Las Vegas met the NHL’s criteria. Even the concerns over gambling, which were discussed in the 1999 meeting, were no longer an issue.

“Going in, I wasn’t sure what their attitude was going to be, especially when it came to sports betting,” Goodman said. “At that time, the stance by the major sports leagues was almost draconian when it came to sports betting.

“But Gary was very open-minded. He did mention the betting issue, but treated us graciously and fairly, and I left there a very happy camper.”

Goodman’s dream — to bring major league professional sports to Las Vegas during his run as mayor from 1999 to 2011 — was underway.

He courted all four sports, even proposing that the city build a stadium downtown to host the Super Bowl and be the permanent home for Monday Night Football. The Oakland Raiders are currently looking at relocating to Las Vegas pending approval of a 65,000-seat domed stadium.

He partially succeeded in his quest. The NBA — Goodman also met with then-commissioner David Stern on Sept. 28 — eventually brought its All-Star Weekend to Las Vegas in 2007, and its Summer League has been a fixture at UNLV since 2004.

But what Oscar Goodman was unable to accomplish, his wife, current Las Vegas mayor Carolyn, will with the expected announcement Wednesday.

“I’m very proud,” Oscar Goodman said. “One of Carolyn’s priorities was to finish making my vision a reality and bring major league sports to Las Vegas. She’s very persistent.”

Goodman didn’t grow up with hockey and admits he’s not a huge fan. But he has a great appreciation for the skill it takes to play the game and for the fans’ passion for the sport. He anticipates the NHL will be a big hit in Las Vegas.

“I’ll bet the rest of the season tickets will be sold out in five minutes after the official announcement that Las Vegas has its team,” Goodman said. “I can’t wait until they begin playing.

“I’m very impressed with Mr. Foley. He’s persistent but not obnoxious. He’s the kind of guy Gary Bettman and the owners will embrace. I just wish he would call his team the ‘Las Vegas Oscars.’”

Goodman probably will have to settle for rooting for the “Black Knights” — Las Vegas’ first major league sports franchise.

“We’re ready for it, and we’ll be able to say ‘we finally grew up.’” Goodman said.

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
Golden Knights' Deryk Engelland Shares Advice with Rookies - Video
Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland has some advice for rookies: “Stick with what got you there.” The veteran NHL player also recalls his first goal as a pro.
Golden Knights Continue Preseason Success with Win Over Avalanche - Video
The Golden Knights prospects are continuing to prove they are worthy of a starting position, this time with a shutout 5-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Golden Knights Head Coach Gerard Gallant Praises Prospects - Video
A day after the Golden Knights 6-2 preseason victory over the Arizona Coyotes, head coach Gerard Gallant discussed how impressed he is with the prospects, including defensemen Nicolas Hague and Dylan Coghlan.
Golden Knights On First Preseason Win - Video
The Golden Knights talk about their first preseason win including Max Pacioretty's hat trick and putting Malcolm Subban as the goaltender for tonight's game.
Golden Knights Zamboni Lessons 101 - Video
The Golden Knights preseason tips off on Sunday, Sept. 15 and you know what that mean, it's time to roll out the zamboni! Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a zamboni operator for the Golden Knights? Golden Edge host Cassie Soto finds out!
Allegiant Unveils Golden Knights Plane - Video
Allegiant air officially unveils its new Golden Knights airbus that will take to the skies soon.
Golden Knights Rookie Camp: 3 Takeaways - Video
Vegas Golden Knights rookies took to the ice on Friday morning for practice at City National Arena. While the rookies mainly participated in drills, it was good to see the prospects get ice time. Golden Knights beat writers David Schoen and Ben Gotz discuss their three takeaways from the practice.
Golden Knights Host Charity Golf Classic - Video
The Golden Knights held its 2019 Charity Golf Classic on Wednesday at TPC Summerlin. Before teeing off, Golden Knights players Ryan Reaves, Jonathan Marchassault and Alex Tuch said who they thought were the worst and best golfers on their team.
Ryan Reaves performs wedding ceremony
Reverand Reavo makes his debut for one time only at the Chapel of Flowers for a get married by Ryan Reaves contest.
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