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Las Vegas Is A Terrible Place For An NHL Team, by Nate Silver

Stashed in: Vegas, Baby!, Nate Silver, Hockey

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Makes sense to me.

There ought to be more NHL teams in Canada, which has only seven of the 30 NHL franchises despite having about as many hockey fans as the United States.

And there perhaps ought to be fewer in midsize American markets, especially those far from the Canadian border. According to my previous research, the six current NHL markets with the fewest number of hockey fans are Nashville, Miami, Raleigh, Columbus, Phoenix and Tampa. Those franchises lost a collective $51 million in 2013-14, according to Forbes.

Now there’s momentum to place an NHL expansion team in Las Vegas, another idea that makes little sense.

Our 2013 analysis estimated that there are just 91,000 NHL fans in metro Las Vegas. That’s tiny even by comparison to the six smallest NHL markets that I mentioned before, which have between 146,000 (Nashville) and 279,000 (Tampa) hockey fans. And it’s well below Seattle’s 241,000 or Quebec City’s 530,000 fans.

But here’s another reason to be skeptical about Las Vegas: The city has had several professional sports franchises (albeit none from the four or five largest North American sports leagues), and it hasn’t supported them very well.


There is a much better case for an NBA team in Las Vegas. NBA avidity is already well above average there, based on the number of Google searches for NBA-related topics. The NBA, unlike the NHL, has had success in similar markets, like San Antonio and Oklahoma City. And the only sports team that’s consistently been a good draw in Las Vegas is a basketball team: The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels averaged almost 14,000 fans per game from 2009-10 through 2013-14.

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