NHL expansion to Las Vegas confirmed


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman ended months of speculation on Wednesday by officially announcing Las Vegas as home of the league's 31st franchise. 

Hockey's worst-kept secret was formally revealed as the NHL board of governors unanimously approved Sin City for the expansion franchise.

"We think this is a tremendously exciting opportunity, not only for Las Vegas, but for the league as well," Bettman said during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon as the league convened in Las Vegas for its annual awards ceremony.

"In the fall of 2017, when we celebrate the 100th birthday of the NHL, we will do so as a league of 31 teams."

Bettman said the Las Vegas team will be able to compete immediately with home games at T-Mobile Arena, which Bettman said "was built with hockey in mind." The new team is yet unnamed, but Black Knights is believed to be the favourite. 

The NHL deferred expansion to Quebec City, with Bettman saying there's "no doubt" the city could host a team. 

"The decision to defer was based on elements over things the Quebec group had no control over," Bettman said before clarifying the weakness of the Canadian dollar was a factor. 

Bettman used Auston Matthews, an Arizona native who is the likely top pick in Friday's NHL Draft, as an example of how hockey can succeed in the desert. 

Vegas owner Bill Foley said he wants to promote youth hockey and the team's practice facility will "be open to all."