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August 30, 2014

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NHL takes first shift in Las Vegas; expansion team unlikely

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Steve Silver

(From left) Joe Maloof, George Maloof, Mayor Oscar Goodman, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Gavin Maloof pose with showgirls and the Stanley Cup on the Ghostbar’s outdoor terrace at the Palms Monday.

NHL Awards Ceremony press conference

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to local media among some of hockey's most cherished hardware outside the Ghostbar at the Palms on Apr. 6. Launch slideshow »

Lord Stanley's Cup paid a visit to the Palms Monday and it received a Las Vegas welcome from one thirsty mayor.

"I picture a giant martini when I look at this," Mayor Oscar Goodman said while examining hockey's most cherished prize, the Stanley Cup. "I could fill this with gin and have a great night. I just need a big straw."

The Stanley Cup, as well as the Hart (MVP), Vezina (top goalie), Lady Byng (sportsmanship) and Calder (top rookie) trophies enjoyed the attention of showgirls and the sun's warmth as Goodman welcomed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to Las Vegas at a press conference to promote the 2009 NHL Awards Ceremony on the Ghostbar's outdoor terrace.

Versus will televise the NHL's year-end celebration live from the Pearl Concert Theater on June 18 –- the first time the ceremony will be broadcast inside the United States.

"Las Vegas is an ideal showcase for outstanding talent from the entertainment world and I think there is more than enough room on the grand stage that Vegas provides for the best athletes in sports to be here as well," Bettman said.

Bettman tried to focus on the upcoming awards ceremony, but he could not escape the inevitable questions about bringing a professional sports team to Las Vegas.

Although Bettman said he is not opposed to expanding the NHL to Las Vegas, he admitted it would not happen anytime soon.

"Some league will be here," Bettman said. "Somebody's going to be first, but the stadium/arena issues, I think until they resolve, will preclude any serious consideration."

Mayor Goodman said he believes either the NHL or the NBA will move a team to Las Vegas once the city finds a way to build an arena.

Even though Bettman will not be bringing a team with him in June, he does expect the highest turnout of current and former NHL players ever. The NHL Players Association plans to hold its annual meetings in Las Vegas to correspond with the awards show, which Bettman estimates will attract 200 to 300 current players.

In addition to the NHL's official business surrounding the awards show, Bettman announced Monday that the league will also hold a celebrity No Limit, Texas Hold'em poker tournament with Pokerstars.net to raise money for charities including the Ronald McDonald House and the NHLPA's "Goals and Dreams" program.

"I think the league is fortunate that at this point in time we probably have more young gifted players than we have ever had in our history, which is great for the league," Bettman said. "The fact that we are being more aggressive at the same time in ways we connect with our fans… this is all part of raising the profile of the game."

While the NHL sees Las Vegas as a way to move its game into a more mainstream and glamorous market, Mayor Goodman eyes dollar signs from the three-year agreement the league signed with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Authority to host the awards show.

"This is a giant step for Las Vegas and what (Bettman) said is absolutely true that this gives people another reason to travel to Las Vegas where very important business is being done," Goodman said. "And this counteracts the remarks President Obama made where he just sluffed us off.

Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].

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