NHL EXPANSION: THE FORMATION OF THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS was written for and first published by LawInSport

For US sports, Las Vegas is generally regarded as one of the most intriguing new markets in the United States, and has long been one that leagues and teams have had their eye on.

The city of Las Vegas refers to itself as the Entertainment Capital of the World.[1] However, it is still without one of the world’s most popular entertainment platforms, major league professional sports. For years, several leagues in the United States have considered moving there, including the National Football League (which is currently considering moving the Oakland Raiders to the city[2]).

However, it was the National Hockey League (NHL) that made the first move. As is well known, on June 22, 2016, the NHL Board of Governors (the equivalent to a board of directors for the NHL) voted to expand the league and add a new franchise in Las Vegas.[3] On November 22, they and the new franchise’s owner, Bill Foley, announced that the new club would be named the Vegas Golden Knights. They will start playing in the city in the 2017-18 season.

The NHL and the Golden Knights face a variety of interesting legal and commercial issues that come with entering a new market and creating a new team. This article is the first in a series that will explore the most pressing of those issues. This piece begins by setting the scene, and will look at:

  • The NHL’s history of expansion – to provide a broader context to the history of expansion in the league and understanding behind the decision to move to Las Vegas;
  • The current Las Vegas expansion – a brief review of the NHL governing documents and the process that allowed Las Vegas Golden Knights to be established;
  • Allocation of the players – a brief explanation of the system devised by the NHL to allocate players currently under contract to NHL clubs to the new Vegas team.