THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LAS VEGAS — The NHL is no closer to moving a team to Las Vegas, despite shifting its annual awards ceremony to Sin City for the next three years.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday at the Palms Hotel Las Vegas that moving the awards will let the show expand with bigger and better events to celebrate hockey’s top players, and is not an indication that the league is suddenly eyeing the city any closer.
"This has nothing to do with that," Bettman told reporters as he stood on an outdoor terrace with the Stanley Cup and the Las Vegas Strip behind him.
"Some league will be here," Bettman said. "Somebody's going to be first, but the stadium/arena issues, I think until they resolve, will preclude any serious consideration."
Bettman said building a new arena is the biggest issue Las Vegas faces in getting its own sports team. He said a stadium would be difficult to finance now.
"We have no plans to expand, and I don't think anybody does in this time frame based on the economy," he said.
Bettman said the NHL is in sound financial shape, and he expects to see league revenues to increase five per cent this season. He said that playoff ticket sales and season ticket sales for next season were fine, based only on anecdotal evidence.
Bettman hopes that Las Vegas' reputation would attract more players, fans and celebrities to the awards ceremony that honours the best of the best for that season.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman believes that the NHL and NBA are "neck and neck" as the leagues most likely to put teams in the desert town -- if a suitable arena existed.
"I think if we had an arena right now, with all due respect to what the commissioner said, we would have a team," Goodman said. "I really believe that."