Flyers

Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — When the NHL announced Las Vegas as its choice for expansion in 2017, there were some concerns as to how a sports franchise would survive in the Sin City. Despite the cash cow that is the four major sports leagues, none of them has ever built a pro team in Las Vegas. 

About five months since the decision became official, there are still questions around the move. The general consensus around the Flyers' locker room can be summed up with one word: interesting. 

On the surface, every player appreciates the league's expanding. 

“The more teams, the more jobs for guys,” Dale Weise said. “I think it’s a positive. A place like that will be exciting. ... I think [expansion] is good for the league.”

That’s how the players see the overall concept, but how about the selection of Las Vegas over, say, Quebec? 

“It’s an interesting location,” Steve Mason said. “Not a typical hockey market. Hopefully they can find a fan base there. Obviously, it’s known for tourism so there will be a lot of visiting fans coming in but from a player’s perspective, you hope that there’s an actual home fan base there.”

That seems to be the major concern around Las Vegas, where 42 million outsiders visited the city in 2015, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Everything in the city is a spectacle and almost all of the sights and sounds of The Strip draw a crowd. 

 

The expansion team is bound to bring in people; the question is, though, will they be actual Las Vegas hockey fans? 

“It might be tough to get up for a game if no one is there,” Matt Read said.

If a group of Flyers fans are out West for the weekend and notice the Flyers are in town, they’ll more than likely take in a game. Considering how booming the city’s tourism is, there’s a chance more visiting fans make up the day-to-day attendance.

That being said, the number of season tickets purchased exceeded 15,000 within one week of the announcement. How those tickets are used remains to be seen.

As for the city itself, some players see it as a distraction. Every city has its entertainment and nightlife scene. Vegas just happens to be more over the top than anywhere else. 

“You’re going to have to mind your P’s and Q’s,” Wayne Simmonds said. “In this day and age, with camera phones and all that, Twitter and Instagram, it could be as simple as you going out to dinner or having a couple of drinks and people thinking you’re partying or something like that. So I think the guys that end up there have to make sure they’re on their best behavior and minding what they do.”

“The novelty probably wears off if you’ve been there,” Mason added. 

Shayne Gostisbehere made his first trip to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards last June, so he got to see first-hand what hockey would look like there. He's excited to see the expansion team, but can see the drawbacks.

“The environment is definitely tempting,” Gostisbehere said. “There’s some temptations and you see other cities, it’s the same, but Vegas is a whole different animal and obviously the temptation will be there, but whoever is playing there, it’s on them to keep themselves in check and be a good professional.”

He can also speak on the other concern around Las Vegas being a warm-weather area where a sport played on ice will fizzle out. Having been born and raised in Florida, the second-year defenseman grew up hearing about Florida and its lack of a hockey market. 

“The more we can expand the game into different areas that only get glimpses of hockey, it’s pretty cool,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s a fun game to play and for more people to see it, the more they get involved.”

The expansion franchise has yet to determine its name, but appears to be gaining a growing preliminary fan base. That’s to be expected for a town that has never called a professional sports team its own. As for the players around the league, there’s still mixed emotions as to the selection. 

 

That being said, it’s one new market for the league to capitalize on and one new team to add to the competition. How it turns out, well, that’ll be answered over time.

“It could go either way,” Weise said. “As a young, single guy it might go differently than a guy with a family. Everyone’s professional in this league. ... I think it’ll be a wonderful place to play.”