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Foley Wants Fans in Stands for VGK

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Vegas Golden Knights VGK Tom's Daily

Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley appeared on the Vegas Hockey Hotline show with Brian Blessing yesterday, and may have let the cat out of the bag on some of the NHL’s plans for the upcoming season.

Fans in the Stands

It’s no secret that the NHL is gunning for a January 1 restart date for the season, regardless of length. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said on several occasions he wants to hold that line, leaving the potential for a Winter Classic to open the season. While that sounds appealing on many levels, I can’t imagine the league wanting to open its doors – especially with a Winter Classic – that doesn’t feature fans.

“If we’re not playing (in front of) fans, I don’t know if a lot of teams can make it. Including us – it’s going to be very difficult.”

Foley acknowledged he as an owner and other owners would have to make a “serious financial commitment” to fund their teams if fans weren’t allowed in the building. Foley did say he believes Commissioner Bettman has a plan and isn’t looking to play games to empty houses.

The real question is when fans would be allowed back, and how many games would the NHL play. Foley went on to point out that with the Tokyo Olympics moved back to the summer of 2021, the NHL has to wrap this upcoming season by the end of June. NHL American rightsholder NBC has both events, and the Olympics are a massive ratings horse for the network.

Restart Date and Scheduling

Foley did offer his thoughts that he believes the NHL will play an “abbreviated season and an accelerated season,” adding fuel to reports of 48 and 60 game campaigns we’ve heard in recent days. A shortened campaign is not unprecedented, and in fact I was with Nashville last time it happened coming out of the 2012-13 lockout. We played a 48-game season, and it definitely lent some urgency to every game. The feeling was more of a sprint than the typical marathon of the NHL season.

While I understand that maxing out home game revenues with the most games you can have is important, I also would say that a shorter season will generate more intensity and fan passion because of the weight of each game. It could help drive broadcast revenues as well. Clearly the more games the better for the bottom line, but all is not lost with a shortened season.

For his part, Foley predicts less than 60 games, saying he thinks it’s “48 or 56, and it’s going to be a lot of games quickly.”

Canadian Division?

This has been a hot topic in hockey circles lately. Traveling back-and-forth across the Canadian border presents several health challenges to teams, especially with the border closed to non-essential traffic through at least January 1. Of course, hockey players were designated essential personnel and allowed to cross to enter the bubble earlier this year.

That said, there’s a lot of upside to a seven-team Canadian division, not the least of which would be crazy intensity north of the border. If every other Canadian team is a division rival, those teams and their fans will have one crazy season. Plus it will briefly regionalize the other divisions, something that could lead to new and exciting rivalries.

We already know when it comes to sports fans that change is slow to be embraced, but in the era of COVID-19 we’re getting used to it. I could see the Golden Knights spawning more rivalries with teams like St. Louis, Nashville and resuming its beef with Dallas in the regular season.

For his part, Foley added that he thinks “they’re going to play a Canadian division. I don’t think (teams) are going to be crossing the border.”

Foley on the Bubble

Foley also said that he thought the Golden Knights were “worn out” in the bubble.

“I feel like our guys got a little worn out. They just got tired of being isolated, and I think that showed against Dallas… we just weren’t the same team that we were earlier in the playoffs. It’s too bad, I believe if we had been playing at home, we would have beaten Dallas, and then we would have been in the Stanley Cup, and then we would have seen what happens.

A few media members even had the temerity to suggest that this Cup was easier to win, which invited blowback from fans and from Tampa Bay Lightning players directly. While there was an obvious lack of travel involved, the mental stress on players and staff easily outstripped the physical demands. If you don’t think that matters, consider how easy it is for you to finish any task at work when you’re mentally checked out or stressed. Now make work NHL hockey. Exactly.

As a final thought on a bubble for next season, Foley dismissed the idea.

“I know the Commissioner is dedicated to having a season and awarding the Stanley Cup, but you can’t play in bubbles. It’s impossible. You can’t do it. You can’t afford it.”

Now the wait is on for VGK fans to see when the NHL gets back on the ice.

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[…] an interview with Vegas Hockey Hotline Foley touched on a number of subjects, but one of his most telling quotes was his remarks on not having fans in the stands in […]

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Tom’s Daily: Bullying; Bertuzzi Arb; Daley Retires

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VHN Vegas Golden Knights

Tom’s Daily features news and notes from around the NHL in digest form.

Looks like the Vegas Reverse Retro jerseys are due to be announced in mid-November, along with several other teams according to Sports Business Journal. Not to be confused with the just-released golds.

I know a lot of people balked at the Islanders only getting two second round draft picks back for Devon Toews, but that haul would come to look pretty good in the days after the deal. Now Colorado has inked the promising young defender to a four-year deal. (NHL)

Trevor Daley has called it a career, and the Pittsburgh Penguins hire him as a hockey operations advisor. Many in the hockey community see Daley as a future GM. (PittsburghHockeyNow)

Tyler Bertuzzi received a $3.5M award in arbitration today. The 25-year-old was seeking a one-year, $4.25M deal while the Detroit Red Wings had countered at $3.15M. (TSN)

Arizona Coyotes top draft pick Mitchell Miller was charged with assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act in February of 2016 for bullying an African American classmate with developmental disabilities. (AZCentral)

That’s it for today’s Tom’s Daily. Keep your browser pointed to VHN for the latest in the world of hockey.

 

 

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Vegas Reverse Retro Jersey Confirmed?

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Vegas Retro Red Jersey Golden Knights

Vegas Reverse Retro Jersey Appears Confirmed by Sports Business Journal Tweet

For the last few weeks there have been alleged leaks of different jerseys across social media including a red Vegas Golden Knights jersey. There have also been images of jerseys for the Anaheim Ducks, Pittsbrugh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and even San Jose Sharks.

However, according to San Jose Sharks President Jonathan Becher, the alternate sweaters were a hoax:

This tweet appears to refer to a Sharks jersey echoing the California Golden Seals that had been making the rounds, but also in saying “none” of these designs are real seems to be nodding towards all the designs floating out there. We’ve seen photos of jerseys for sale on eBay, posted on various websites, and proliferating on fan accounts. While I don’t always buy in to jersey rumors, in this case you could sense there might be fire and not just smoke.

This morning, Sports Business Journal put out the following tweet:

Interesting photo choice, eh?

This all but locks in that the NHL is indeed going to release the series of jerseys in a few weeks, including the red Vegas Reverse Retro jersey we spoke of last week. The jersey pays homage to the IHL’s Las Vegas Thunder with its “V” shaped striping, updated to Vegas Golden Knights colors. The jersey also features the team’s secondary star logo as the main crest. The Knight helm is on the shoulders.

While reception has been mixed, I think that once fans have a chance to see them for real they’ll be a stunner.

The Vegas Reverse Retro jersey will be worn for “select” games this season. Perhaps they will be worn against other teams with the jerseys. Since the original leak photo juxtaposed Vegas and an updated Wild Wing Anaheim Ducks jersey, it’s fair to assume that will be a matchup featuring the jerseys.

Another potential matchup for the red Vegas Reverse Retro jersey could be against the Colorado Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon posted a picture of Quebec Nordiques-color gloves on his Instagram with the caption “new colors crazy”. The Avs moved out of La Belle Provence in the mid-90s because of economic considerations. But the baby blue jerseys remain popular with the retro crowd to this day… and those of us old enough to remember what a fierce Adams Division rival the Nordiques were.

We’re also seeing Dallas teasing a jersey release for Wednesday by showing us just a black piece of jersey fabric. This morning they posted the following video:

So it looks like the Stars are going to be going either monochromatic, or perhaps have just a very slight reference to the team’s signature green in them. But this release doesn’t match up with the Reverse Retro. It seems more in line with the VGK Golds that were released a few weeks ago.

Give it a few weeks Golden Knights fans. We will see the new Vegas Reverse Retro jersey out there soon.

 

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Who Joins the Vegas Golden Knights in a Pandemic Division?

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Vegas Goes Gold

We here at VHN are in “fun mode” at this point of the off-season. It’s fun to follow thoughts and ideas that swirled at various points in the last few weeks but had to be shelved for stuff like “breaking news“, “Alex Pietrangelo” and “Robin Lehner vs. Marc-Andre Fleury IN A STEEL CAGE!”.

Well, maybe the last one combined reality with one of those crazy ideas…

But at this point, we don’t have any real idea of when the season will start. It appears less likely with the second wave of COVID-19 things actually do hit that January 1 initial projection. Vegas owner Bill Foley has speculated it could be February 1 if not later.

I think it’s a given that we will see a shorter season, likely 48 games. Historical precedence exists and for TV reasons the season has to end by the start of the Tokyo Olympics.

Likewise I don’t think you can play this season in a bubble, but you might be able to hub for part of it. If the teams did hub, I believe it would be at the start of the season. Once the border between Canada and the US is open again for non-essential travel I see things going back to what we consider “normal”.

So with that in mind, here are my predictions for Pandemic Division distribution for when the NHL would resume play in January/February.

Canadian Division?

Yes. A Canadian pandemic division would be essential and is actually a great size. Plus, it gives the Canadian networks must-watch matchups almost all the time to start the season. So we have Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in the CD. Plus if the US/Canada border really does remain closed until at least January 1 if not beyond, it’s pretty much how the NHL has to proceed. So we might as well warm up to the idea now.

Look at the immediate benefits of Toronto/Montreal and Edmonton/Calgary hammering away at each other as they’ve always done. Then we have the potential for new rivalries with the Jets who are the only centralized team in Canada. Everyone else is closer to the coasts. Plus with Ottawa spending the way they are and with an owner saying they’ll win a Stanley Cup in four years, they’re a team to watch.

Obviously this leads to questions, such as structure for the remaining divisions, each of which will have eight teams because I’m having four divisions. What happens to the Golden Knights and the former Pacific Division?

What Happens To Vegas

The VGK will end up in a pandemic division with current rivals San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. But to fill out the last three teams in the division, I’m going to draw a new map and create some awesome rivalries. Coming in as the last teams will be the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and St. Louis Blues.

This would undoubtedly be the most fun possible for VGK fans because it grows the rivalry with Dallas; Colorado/Vegas will turn out to be the marquee matchup in my opinion; St. Louis wants its mojo back and has something to prove. Plus imagine the Pietrangelo vs. STL storyline playing out six times or more in a season.

I realize you might think this sounds like the creation of someone with inherent bias, but geographically it makes sense. Ignore for just the start of the season how Dallas hated being in the Pacific and left for the Central. It rekindles those old Ducks/Stars matchups that used to get out hand. Everyone will be gunning for Dallas and for Vegas. Colorado could be the best team in the NHL to start the season if healthy, yet in a division like this it will be survival of the fittest. Plus, even if you write off Arizona and the California teams (sorry Sharks fans) for the season, this setup gives you the potential for a great clash somewhere every single night.

The North

This pandemic division was also altered from my first call. Originally it was an easy time to lump Buffalo, New Jersey, NYI, NYR, Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh and Columbus together. Nice and tidy. But that left me with that oddball “South” division which wasn’t very southern for half of it.

So as I always say, sacrifices have to be made, but the division might be better for it.

Now, I have a lineup I’m pretty happy with. I take the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins.

Wow – really shook up some things there! And broke off the traditional rivalries that go all the way back to the Patrick Division days with PIT/PHI and the NY teams. But let’s look at some of the crazy awesome upside here.

FOUR of the Original Six teams are in a division together. For Detroit, they only recently came back to the Eastern Conference. Chicago has been in the West for a long time and is now the only O-6 team out there. But look at it now! Hawks, Wings, Rangers and Bruins all in the same division. Rangers/Bruins has deep, angry roots and would be awesome to see renewed. Wings and Hawks much the same. Plus now Minnesota and Buffalo fans get a different perspective on things as well. I like how this works out for my “Southern” division as well. And for Buffalo it’s a chance to really finally establish that downstate rivalry in hockey.

The South

Hopefully the NHL embraces the rare chance to realign and perhaps stoke some other unique rivalries. Initially I had this pandemic division looking somewhat differently than my final alignment. I had constructed a division that included the obvious Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers triangle.

Is now the time to say I miss the Atlanta Thrashers? RIP ATL hockey.

I was going to lump Washington in here with pretty much the rest of the Central Division, but I now realize that’s not going to play out as well as I first imagined.

So for my remaining five teams, I bring in the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

And believe it or not, I think there’s some nice synergies here.

Nashville and Pittsburgh rivalry? Well, the Penguins (and former Pred Patric Hornqvist) did deny Music City a Stanley Cup. This also keeps the Crosby/Ovechkin thing going – but I’m really over that narrative. However it appears the NHL and NBC are not.

Nashville and Columbus used to be rivals in the Barry Trotz/Ken Hitchcock days, but that’s faded with the CBJ in the east. Perhaps now they could rekindle that, especially with John Tortorella as the new protagonist.

I also think that Philly, Washington and Pittsburgh are good teams that will compete with each other every night. Now you have a division with legit contenders and a defending Stanley Cup champion going head-to-head to start the season almost every night. And let’s face it, Columbus can completely spoil an evening for anyone every time out.

Conclusion

In creating my pandemic division setup I allowed for some rivalry retention as well as nods towards recent clashes. I think this is the best balance of geography and rivalry, but what do you think? How would you align your four divisions? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

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