Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | 10:55 p.m.
Hockey’s biggest and brightest stars are coming to Las Vegas and if Gary Bettman has his way, this year’s NHL awards will kick off a raucous and rocking, star-studded weekend to remember.
Love him or hate him, the NHL commissioner is determined to turn the annual awards gala into a destination weekend for both players and fans.
“This is all part of raising the profile of the game,” Bettman said at a press conference at Ghostbar on Monday afternoon.
This year’s event is promising to “bring together more players, celebrities, business partners and fans than ever before.” Moreover, fans are now being offered the opportunity to purchase tickets to attend what was once a closed awards ceremony.
Bettman said the action-packed weekend is being planned in hopes of “taking things to a new level.”
In addition to the June 18 awards show at the Palms, NHL Awards weekend will feature an afterparty at Rain nightclub, as well as exclusive over-the-top events next door in the swanky suites at Palms Place.
“There’s going to be parties all over the facility,” Bettman said.
The league also has a celebrity/public/player Texas Hold'em poker tournament, a golf tournament and a concert planned.
Still, Bettman isn’t worried about his players, owners or managers misbehaving.
“Our guys are great,” he said. “I’m very proud of the way they conduct themselves. They know how to handle themselves, they’re good guys.”
He called the extra-curricular events “ways in which we connect with our fans” and said he has a few more aces up his sleeve.
“We’re working on a few other elements,” he said with a sly grin. “I anticipate that what we do this June will be the baseline of what we do in the future. ... We’ll add elements and it will get bigger, certainly, over the three years that we have already agreed to do this.”
The tight-lipped commissioner said he was looking forward to building the NHL Awards into an annual destination event for both the league and Las Vegas.
Bettman called it the “ideal public-private partnership.”
While the June 18 ceremony will be the first time the NHL awards will be held in the U.S., the league has already committed to holding the event in Las Vegas through 2011.
Bettman said the awards, which are being held in conjunction with the annual NHL Players Association meeting, will be “a destination weekend” for hockey fans.
The commissioner said the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has been busy fielding calls from people who are eager to plan trips to see the awards.
Meanwhile, he anticipates this year’s NHLPA meeting to be the biggest one yet.
“They’re expecting these to be the best-attended players meetings that they’ve had,” he said. “I think they’re looking at multiples of (previous years’ attendance), be it two or three or four times (as many attendees), because of the location.”
While the buttoned-up Bettman said he planned to do more working than partying during June’s awards weekend, he admitted he was looking forward to it.
“It’s going to make the 30 years younger,” he said.
Tickets to the 2009 NHL Awards include both entrance to the awards ceremony and the afterparty at Rain. Passes are currently available through Ticketmaster and the Palms box office, while they’re not cheap, at $504 apiece, fans can also visit nhl.com/vegas for a chance to win their way in.
Palms Casino Resort has come a long way since its "Real World" debut in 2002. The boutique property features three distinct towers and a diverse mix of bars and restaurants across a 95,000-square-foot casino.
Palms, which features more than 1,200 rooms and fantasy suites, is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar transformation that will encompass an Ivory Tower room and suite redesign, new culinary additions, re-imagined gaming spaces and new, distinctive nightlife experiences.
In addition to newly designed rooms, during the first phase of the renovation, Palms will welcome Heraea, a high-energy American restaurant and lounge, and XISHI, a pan-Asian restaurant and lounge.
Fantasy Suites include the Hardwood Suite, the only hotel room in the world with its own basketball court.
Other amenities include the all-new Cantor Gaming® race and sports book, one of the few sports books in Las Vegas to include a poker room; SOCIAL; Scarlet; Chocolat Bistro; tonic bar; ghostbar; Pearl Concert Theater; Moon Nightclub; N9NE Steakhouse; Nove Italiano; Simon Restaurant & Lounge; Palms Pool & Bungalows; Kim Vō Salon; Drift Spa & Hammam; Brenden Theatres, a 14-theatre cineplex and more than 60,000 square-feet of meeting space.