We’re just over a year until the 2017-2018 NHL season, but it doesn’t sound like we’re any closer to any decisions on a Las Vegas AHL affiliate — though it sounds like the more likely course of action will be a shared affiliation with another NHL team.
Now, given the amount of work needed to launch the NHL team, launching an AHL affiliate doesn’t seem to be that high a priority. And, indeed, Las Vegas Bill Foley acknowledges the challenges in taking on minor-league hockey as well as the NHL. Because the new Las Vegas team won’t have as many players under contract as other NHL teams before the 2017-2018 season, the most logical course would be to share an AHL affiliate with another NHL team. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Foley has had preliminary discussions with AHL president Dave Andrews and team senior vice president Murray Craven is overseeing the process by which the farm team will be established. It is expected to cost Foley around $5 million to join the AHL if he opts for his own team, far less if he partners with another NHL team early on. Foley paid a record $500 million to join the NHL after the league awarded him his franchise on June 22.
“It’s like building another team from scratch, only cheaper,” Craven said of a start-up AHL team.
Foley said he is contemplating sharing an affiliation at the start, then eventually going his own way once Las Vegas has enough players to stock its own roster and that of whatever ECHL team it eventually ties into. Foley has had extensive talks with an NHL team — he wouldn’t say which — about sharing the AHL affiliate for 2017-18. He did say the NHL team he’s considering doing business with owns its AHL team.
That really doesn’t narrow things down: all the western AHL teams are owned by the NHL parents.
Any arrangement for the 2017-2018 season will be temporary, so the real issue will be in what comes down the line. Though there’s a group seeking pro hockey for Reno, it doesn’t sound like the Reno Events Center management is too eager to pursue the capacity to make ice for events. Fresno’s Selland Arena has successfully hosted pro hockey, but arena management doesn’t seem too eager to pursue AHL hockey. It’s hard to see the Elmore Group giving up the Salt Lake City market for a team it doesn’t own, but Boise — an immensely successful ECHL market — may be a candidate for upgrade. In any case, it doesn’t sound like Foley and Craven have put too much work in establishing a Las Vegas AHL affiliate, but there’s still plenty of time.
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