LAS VEGAS – The date of June 24, 2016 will always be a memorable one in this glitzy oasis in the desert, when the Vegas Golden Knights officially came into existence and Las Vegas truly joined the big leagues.
No longer would pro sports in this town just be about betting on them. Something shiny and new was going to capture far more attention than the local triple-A baseball franchise. Something other than boxing matches to capture the sporting fancy out of the millions that visit the adult playland.
That is what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is wagering, with Vegas owner Bill Foley placing his $500 million bet on the table. Now June 21, 2017 will hold its own significance as it becomes the date when the Golden Knights form the bulk of their inaugural team.
Vegas will announce the players it selects from the league’s other 30 teams in the NHL expansion draft Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena. The new Golden Knights will be the first team from one of the four major pro sports to call Las Vegas home.
Skepticism of the city’s once-small population of native residents and fear from the potential impact of gambling on games often kept Las Vegas out of the running for inclusion into the NHL, NBA or Major League Baseball. But the NBA brought the All-Star game to Vegas in 2007 and now the NHL is planting its roots.
The Ducks and Kings will be helping the Golden Knights get off on solid footing. Expansion rules have Vegas drafting a player from each team, as well as the other 28. The Golden Knights must select at least 14 forwards, nine goalies and three goalies, and their 30 picks must total at least $45 million in salary.
How could the two Southern California teams be affected? One figures to be more so than the other.
The Ducks chose to keep more forwards off-limits out of the 11 they could protect, and as a result were forced to expose two defensemen – Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson – who could easily fit right into the Golden Knights’ starting six for the…