I haven't used the "Skip this" tag in over a year, so if it applies to you just bear with this post.
Gary Bettman has done a lot of good things for the NHL. When he became commissioner in 1993 the league was struggling to attract revenue beyond the gate (i.e., other than ticket sales) and it was a niche sport in the US on par with soccer or tennis. He thoroughly modernized the league, something even his biggest detractors admit, and in the process has probably been a net positive.
His Achilles Heel, though, has been the insistence on bringing hockey to the Sun Belt in the US. On paper it makes sense, although owners in 1993 were rightly incredulous. He had the foresight to point out how much of the US population would move to the Sun Belt, and his predictions came true. Unfortunately expanding to the Sun Belt has been a mixed bag at best because the fundamental premise – that Midwest / New England transplants to the South will want to see their favorite teams come to town for road games – is badly flawed. If the team can't build a local fan base because local fans simply don't care about hockey, the franchise is doomed. Atlanta lasted all of seven years. The Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes have been a ward of the league several times and don't attract flies to their expensive Glendale arena even though the team has been good recently, making the playoffs multiple times and even knocking off the 3-time Cup winning Blackhawks in 2011. Florida has been a basketcase / zombie franchise in a Miami market that could not care less about it for over 20 years now.
The two teams that succeeded in the Sun Belt – Tampa Bay and Nashville – did so because their ownership groups were intelligent enough not to rely on old fans coming to see their team on the road as a fan base. They both sustained huge short term losses by giving away tickets (especially to kids, knowing that the parents would have to come too) by the bushel. For every 10 free tickets, 1 person came and realized "Hey, I like this!" and they slowly built a local base. Having good teams helped a lot too (TB has won 1 Cup and runner-upped a second). So Bettman will, with some justification, point out that Sun Belt hockey can work.
And now he's doubling down on Las Vegas. Las Vegas is going to be a goddamn disaster. My suggestion on a popular hockey site for the team nickname (which ended up being the atrocious "Black Knights", as generic a name as you can find) was the Nordiques, because this team is going to be in Quebec in ten years or I'll eat my hat. Las Vegas has nothing that suggests it can ever support a pro sports team, and especially not hockey.
The obvious flaw in the Vegas market is that even the local population is transient. People, usually younger people, move to Vegas to work for a few years before burning out on the "Sin City" atmosphere and moving somewhere normal. It's not a place any sane person can take for very long. The other part of the population is retirees who are only going to care inasmuch as they can see the Bruins or Blackhawks come to town a couple times per year. It is beyond unlikely that a hockey team – assuming for a second that anyone in the desert even is predisposed to care about hockey – is going to build a strong local following in a place where the population is constantly churning.
They'll sell out in year one for the novelty factor – At the very least the league will strong arm casinos into gobbling up season tickets to give away for free – and I'm guessing that by the end of year two there will be more people on the ice than in the seats. Even if the team is good, which isn't likely given the expansion draft rules adopted last summer, this has all the makings of a non-starter.
Winnipeg's new team, the ex-Atlanta Thrashers, proves that when in doubt, NHL teams belong in Canada. Statistical analysis suggests that even though it is the 4th largest city in the US, Houston (pop. 6,500,000) has fewer people who like hockey enough to buy tickets than Saskatoon (pop. 260,000). Insiders were floored that Quebec City, with its billionaire ownership group willing to self-fund an arena and where the Nordiques (now Colorado Avalanche) are still missed, was not awarded an expansion team in favor of Vegas. Something tells me that they'll be getting their team soon enough. Despite the US/Canadian exchange rate issue, which Bettman blamed for the QC group's rejection, can't override the basic fact that people in Quebec will go to the games and nobody in Vegas will.
The worst outcome will be Bettman choosing to die on the hill of a Vegas franchise as he has stubbornly refused all attempts to relocate Phoenix or Florida despite them both being clear failures and money losers in their current markets. Bettman's getting old and he could decide to dig in his heels. But if 10% of the league's teams – 3 of 30 – are money losing Bettman pet projects, I think the owners are likely to rebel. So it's time for Hamilton and Quebec City to make sure that the local owners' groups and arena plans are ready to roll because this Vegas adventure is likely to be as short lived as it is poorly thought out.