It's not official yet, but as far as Daniel Negreanu is concerned, it's a done deal – the NHL is coming to Las Vegas. Negreanu joined Jason Somerville on Twitch this past Wednesday and said there will be hockey in Vegas starting in 2017. “It's not official, the commissioner hasn't said so, but I did,” Negreanu told the thousands of viewers who tuned in.
Prospective owner Bill Foley told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday that he didn't think an official announcement would be made at next week's league meetings, where Foley will be on hand to answer questions about the team. However, Negreanu has been very active in making the Las Vegas franchise a reality. As long as he wasn't making a self-defeating prophecy on Twitch, if Negreanu says it's a done deal, it probably is.
Bringing hockey to the desert is serious business for the 40-year-old Toronto native. Like many Canadians, Negreanu was born holding a hockey stick. He used to play street hockey before picking up snooker, and eventually poker. Now that he's living in Las Vegas, Negreanu has the opportunity to become a minority NHL owner in his adopted hometown.
One of the first steps was getting over 10,000 people to commit to buying season tickets. Negreanu was front-and-centre for that pursuit; as of last month, 13,000 people had signed up. Up until now, the ticket drive has been the extent of Negreanu's involvement with the team – as far as we know. But Negreanu has told reporters he may become a part-owner, as well.
There might be a few strings that come attached with Negreanu's money. He says he'd like the team to be called the Rat Pack (Foley prefers the Black Knights, as in the Army football team), and he'd also like to host his own hockey talk show. Negreanu's definitely TV-ready, having appeared on poker broadcasts for over a decade.
We Want the Cup
He might not get everything he wants, but Negreanu is confident the team itself will be competing for a playoff spot in short order. ““It won't take us as long to build a winner as people think,” Negreanu told the Toronto Sun last month. “I'd bet on the playoffs in four or five years.”
First things first. It's believed the NHL has already completed its expansion process as of September 4, with Las Vegas and Quebec City being the only official applicants under consideration. Seattle was an early frontrunner for a bid, but didn't submit a proposal by the July 20 deadline. If for some reason Las Vegas isn't awarded an expansion franchise, there are other options – like moving the Arizona Coyotes out of Glendale. Negreanu is confident it won't come to that.
“The town's starving, absolutely starving, for a professional sports franchise,” Negreanu told NHL.com. “I've found the support to be overwhelming. People that live here, they're dying for this.”