Bill Foley on NHL expansion: ‘It shows you how naive I was’

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman joins George Stroumboulopoulos to discuss all things hockey, including John Scott’s rise to stardom, NHL expansion plans and much more.

One year after he kicked off a campaign to sell season tickets for a hockey team that doesn’t exist, Bill Foley is still being patient — but now realizes he fooled himself into believing the NHL expansion process would be quicker than it has been.

“I thought we’d have the team in no time,” Foley told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It just shows you how naive I was.”

With little clarity on the NHL’s potential expansion to Las Vegas and/or Quebec City, Foley remains patient as the league holds his $2-million deposit for a projected $500-million team. He would like to break ground on a two-rink practice facility for the Black Knights or whatever the fans choose to name the club.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated at the NHL All-Star Game that a 10-person committee is still evaluating the bids and there is no timetable for a decision. When the committee is ready to make a recommendation, the NHL will to consider adding one, two, or no teams to the fold.

The complications of an expansion draft and the tumbling Canadian dollar are two believed hurdles, and the tenuous ownership situations in Carolina and Pittsburgh can't help.

"I don't ask a lot of questions," said Foley, who does few interviews for fear of saying something that might hinder his bid. "I understand they want to get it right. And I don't blame them. This is a huge decision that is going to affect the NHL for years to come. But I'm not a patient guy by nature. However, I've learned to be patient. At least for this project.

"I don't want to upset the other owners because I want to be one of them one of these days, so I try to keep my mouth shut."

The league has yet to announce whether it will return to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards in June, but if the Board of Governors meets in town at that time, Foley is hopeful to hear an update. And he hasn't wavered in his conviction that hockey will work in the desert.

According to 10,000 readers polled by the Review-Journal, 87 per cent of them said they would support an NHL club.

"I'd like to think we're going to hear something one way or the other in the next few months," Foley said. "In the meantime, we're still selling tickets. I believe the upper bowl is sold out already. We're talking to companies that want to be corporate sponsors.

"We're seeing all this enthusiasm for a team we still don't have."