ST. LOUIS — When Golden Knights majority owner Bill Foley was asked in April about Las Vegas hosting the NHL All-Star Game, he went on record as being opposed to the idea.
Since then, Foley has softened his stance.
“At the time I made that statement, I was thinking about how the All-Star Game is very time consuming for the home team,” Foley said. “It was really more in the self-interest of our team. But if the league wants us to hold an All-Star Game, I’m supportive of that.”
The NHL wrapped up its All-Star weekend Saturday with Knights forward Max Pacioretty and the Pacific Division defeating the Atlantic Division 5-4 in the 3-on-3 tournament final at Enterprise Center. Pacioretty, playing in his first All-Star Game, scored a goal.
Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Friday during his state of the league address that next year’s event will be hosted by the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
After that, it could be Las Vegas’ turn.
“The way they put on the All-Star Game and events is fantastic for the fans and really good for the community,” Foley said. “My reticence was related to the time drain on our business staff. But we’re in much better shape. We’re deeper now and more experienced. Our fans are all-in.
“(Hosting in) 2022 is not too early, although it might be ’23, ’24 or ’25. When the league calls, we’ll be ready.”
Las Vegas reportedly was in the running to host the 2021 event, but Foley said the decision to choose Florida was made well in advance and he previously informed the league he did not believe his new staff was ready to handle the event-driven nature of All-Star weekend.
In addition to the 3-on-3 tournament and skills competition, St. Louis hosted the Fan Fair, media day and several other public events as part of the festivities. According to Foley, the host team is responsible for organizing and staffing those events in conjunction with the league.
“I think it’s really helpful to the communities that host it,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “It’s great for the local economy. It brings a spotlight on the city and all the good things that are going on in the city.”
Meanwhile, Foley has not been shy about his desire to host the NHL draft at T-Mobile Arena as soon as 2021. This year’s event takes place in Montreal, and future locations have not been announced.
Unlike the All-Star Game, the draft is centered around two days of selections inside the arena and features few additional functions.
“The draft is not as draining as the All-Star Game. That’s my personal view, but I believe (president of hockey operations) George (McPhee) and (general manager) Kelly (McCrimmon) agree with me,” Foley said. “Fans come in and watch the draft. I wouldn’t be quite as provincial about other fans at the draft as I am during games.”
Should Las Vegas be awarded an All-Star Game in the near future, it could be a spectacle the likes of which haven’t been seen in the NHL.
The NFL recently announced its plans for the April draft in Las Vegas, which include players riding on a boat to the red carpet at the Bellagio fountains.
“It’d be unreal for sure,” said St. Louis Blues forward David Perron, who played one season with the Knights. “They would do many things that no one can match.”
The players certainly would be in favor of a weekend in Las Vegas, especially after experiencing snow and bitter wind chill in St. Louis. The hope, of course, is it wouldn’t turn into a repeat of the disastrous 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas.
“There’s just endless opportunities,” Pacioretty said before joking, “The only problem is, hopefully the security guards could follow the players around and give them a curfew or something.”