Las Vegas Desert Rats?

Photo illustration
Photo illustration

A hockey team for the city of sin

By Davie Wong, Sports Editor

It’s expansion time! The lucky city? Las Vegas was approved for an NHL franchise in 2017-18. While people who supported the idea are jumping for joy, I’m a bit more unsure.

The expansion comes at a time when a couple of teams, with one in particular, are unsure of their ability to field an NHL team in their city. The main team in question is the Arizona Coyotes. Fan interest in the team has dropped off immensely since the move from Winnipeg in the late ‘90s, and it doesn’t help that they can’t win for the life of them. The team suffers from a variety of issues, with most of them stemming from a lack of funds due to an inability to sell tickets and merchandise. This last year, the team ranked second last in average tickets sold per game at 13,400. Only Carolina ranked lower than them. In my opinion, all of this has to do with one specific factor. Their geography.

Arizona is in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. With temperatures reaching to the scorching 40’s on a regular basis, one would think that a nice ice hockey game would be a good escape from the heat. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. With the sun constantly shining, locals find it hard to be interested in a sport that is not commonly available to them. Hockey just isn’t popular there.

There is no local talent for the city to be proud of, and come out to support, and there are no players that garner huge fan interest. It’s really a snowball effect. There are no players that want to play for the Coyotes, because there are no fans. No fans means no money from jersey sales, as well as just not being as fun of a city to play in. No players means no fans. It’s an endless, pointless cycle that has yet to be broken.

My fear is that the expansion Las Vegas team will not fare any differently than the Coyotes. As the saying goes, lady luck can be oh so fickle. I’m worried that the city will not have the patience that is needed for an expansion team. Make no mistake, the new Las Vegas team will be bad, and they will be bad for years. That’s just the nature of expansion teams and the expansion draft. If people are expecting to see the Stanley Cup Finals in the City of Sin within the first five years, they can continue dreaming, because that isn’t going to happen.

It’s going to be a slow process. The first iteration of the team will likely be a disaster. But fans need to stalwart. Rome wasn’t built in a day. However, continued investment into the team from a solid fan base will do nothing but help. They need to not get stuck in the Arizona loop, which is a harder task than it sounds. Las Vegas is smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and the fan base could be liquid and evaporate within a couple of years. It’s got all the same warning flags as Arizona. Let’s just hope this isn’t deja-vu.