Thursday, June 18, 2009 | 1 a.m.
More on the NHL Awards
- Ovechkin, Kesler take 2K10 to the Strip (6-17-2009)
- Las Vegas revs up for NHL Awards (6-16-2009)
- A guide to the 2009 NHL Awards (6-16-2009)
- Q&A: Jeremy Roenick talks NHL Awards, hockey in Vegas and his place in pop culture lore (6-12-2009)
When the National Hockey League visits Las Vegas, it certainly does it right.
As an appetizer to Thursday's nationally televised NHL Awards show, the Palms Hotel and the league welcomed the awards show trophy presenters with a reception in a posh suite high atop the Fantasy Tower on Wednesday night.
Current players like Pat Kane and Jarome Iginla mingled with former greats such as Mark Messier and Pat LaFontaine while dining on decadent hors d'oeuvres lining a giant ice sculpture – not a bad way to start a Vegas vacation.
"(Las Vegas) is an exciting city, everybody enjoys coming here," Iginla said. "When I heard the awards were going to be here, I was hoping I'd be able to come and fortunately I could … It's a nice way to cap the year."
This is the first year of a three-year deal between the NHL and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. In an effort to raise the profile of hockey, the league decided to move the event from its traditional Toronto location to Las Vegas.
The actual awards presentation will be televised live from the Pearl Concert Theater on Versus at 4 p.m. Thursday.
"The anticipation for this is unreal," said Palms owner George Maloof. "I just went downstairs to look at the set for the show. It's spectacular."
In addition to switching the location of the awards show, the NHL Players' Association moved its annual meeting to Las Vegas as well. The geographic move of both events seemed to draw universal praise at the presenters' reception Wednesday.
"I think it's exciting, I think it's fresh," said Messier, a six-time Stanley Cup champion. "I think it's a great way to put the sport on an international platform. I think in every way it's a very positive thing. I know everybody coming here is excited."
Also on Wednesday, just across the street at the Rio, the NHL stole the show from the World Series of Poker as hockey players battled celebrities and professional poker players in a charity poker tournament.
Hockey stars such as Alex Ovechkin and Roberto Luongo competed with the likes of pro poker player Chris Moneymaker and television star Kevin Connolly in the PokerStars.net Charity Shootout.
ESPN even built a miniature ice rink and special hockey table for the event, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN Classic.
"This is a great idea," said Nashville Predators forward Steve Sullivan. "It takes us away from the ice and puts us in a different venue. I think it's great for the fans to see us in different aspects of our lives."
The tournament raised more than $150,000 for the Ronald McDonald House of Las Vegas as well as the NHLPA Goals & Dreams Fund. Each participating NHL player also received $2,000 to donate to a charity of his choice.
Although the NHL players were enjoying themselves Wednesday, they will focus on some business issues after the awards show at the annual North American Summer Player Meetings at the Venetian on Friday and Saturday.
Fresh off the heels of one of the highest-rated Stanley Cup Finals and with the awards show in a new venue, the NHLPA hopes to capitalize on the opportunity to promote the sport of hockey.
"We want to make sure that we keep growing the game now that we are tied to revenues," Sullivan said. We want to make sure that we capitalize on as much revenue as possible. We want to continue to raise the game and smooth our partnership with the NHL so that we can work as partners and grow this great game."
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.
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.
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].