No One Wants to Play Hockey in the Desert

Las Vegas is an awful place for a pro sports team, especially a National Hockey League team.  As the unofficial world capital of betting, there is a pretty good reason why athletic leagues steer clear of the area.  However, there have been talks of establishing a new team in Sin City as of late.  Which made me think: how is there possibly a market for a new hockey team, especially in a nontraditional hockey area like Vegas?  To be honest, I really believe that the NHL has not been wise in choosing markets thus far.  To further explore this issue, I did some quantitative research.  I looked at Forbes’ valuation of all thirty NHL teams, and then compared them to different variables.  My goal was to find out if there are teams that are not really gaining a solid market, and if so, why.  I did a lot of data research, so I’m going to separate my presentation into three blog posts: one for each research project that I conducted.

First, I wanted to look at how much a strong fan base contributes to the financial success of a team.  I compare the data from the previously mentioned Forbes article to The Hockey News Fan Ranking List.  I felt that this was a reliable source, because it took several things into account, such as game attendance, fan value, and number of Twitter followers.

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As expected, the better the fans, the more financially successful a team is.  Interestingly, the top three teams in the fan ranking are Original Six teams, which really goes to show the loyalty of the fans.  It also shows that the Original Six teams were established in traditional hockey markets, and those markets remain successful today.  The next two spots of the ranking are held by Canadian teams – the Canuck and the Jets.  Next is the Flyers, followed by two more Canadian teams. All of the Original Six teams fall in the top half of the fan ranking.  The top sport held by a non-traditional hockey market is the San Jose Sharks, which are ranked fifteenth.

I think it’s important to look at these markets because compared to the popular professional sports – football, basketball, baseball – hockey poses a conundrum when selecting a city in which to start a team.  I guess this might be because it’s not even viewed as an “American” sport- more Canadian, or even Russian.  In my next posts I will measure other variables against a team’s financial success, and further argument why not only the NHL should not establish a team in Sin City, but also why they should think about cutting down their existing teams.

-Charlie Elwart

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