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Vegas Golden Knights Fan Fest

Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights team owner Bill Foley waves during a Vegas Golden Knights Fan Fest at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018.

Hockey may be returning in just over a month.

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley said “ostensibly” the goal is for the NHL to return on Jan. 13 with training camps to open at the beginning of January, possibly Jan. 3.

He spoke by phone with the Las Vegas Sun on Tuesday, where he addressed the season restart, the chances of having fans in the building, whether the NHL will use a bubble like it did for the playoffs, the emotional trade of Nate Schmidt, his personal battle with COVID-19 and more.

“That’s the goal — Jan. 13,” Foley said.

Foley said he had a Board of Governors’ call on Wednesday, at which point he hopes for more clarity about the upcoming season, including key dates, virus protocols, arena plans and more.

If the season starts on that date, it’s unlikely fans will be in the building to watch Vegas home games. Under current directives set out by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, the Golden Knights would be permitted 50 fans for their games.

Foley said he doesn’t know if that would be feasible, but said he envisions having a few suites “partially filled” for home games.

The ongoing pandemic has brought uncertainty to the sports world, including where some teams might be able to play. It’s already happened in parts California and Manitoba, where the San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets might not be able to use their home arena. That is not an issue in Las Vegas as of now, but things could change in the next month.

If T-Mobile Arena is permitted to host hockey games, it might not play home to only the Golden Knights. For the postseason, the NHL used Edmonton and Toronto as hub cities, where players quarantined and played. The Golden Knights spent more than seven weeks in Edmonton.

While bubbles are not expected for the 2020-21 season, Foley said the idea of using a central location is still on the table. He said in order to reduce travel, several teams could fly to one city and play multiple games.

In that scenario, the Golden Knights’ home could be a potential host.

“I think T-Mobile (Arena) is safe from COVID as anywhere in the Unites States,” Foley said. “I know that the commissioner doesn’t want everyone flying around the country to play a game of hockey.

“I’d say we’re a pretty good candidate to be a participant in that kind of hockey environment.”

There have been rumblings about some owners not wanting to play the season because of financial constraints, but Foley said he is not among them. He sent a note to his investors that the team is prepared for a season without the usual revenue streams.

He did say he is thankful for the fan support the Golden Knights have, and that he sympathizes with teams that do not have that kind cash flow.

“If the commissioner says we’re playing and here’s your schedule and all that, we’re going to play. We’re not going to be a holdout,” Foley said. “It’s going to be expensive for owners if you don’t have fans.

“That’s kind of my game plan — just suck it up and try to survive.”

If and when hockey does return, the Golden Knights are in a strong position to contend for the Stanley Cup. They went to the Western Conference Final last year, and Foley believes the team improved after an offseason that landed them star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

Foley is a key voice in personnel decisions along with general manager Kelly McCrimmon and president of hockey operations George McPhee. The three talk regularly, and when the decision was made to woo Pietrangelo to Vegas, Foley hosted him and his wife for dinner at his house.

“I think it’s better than last year’s squad, and I thought last year’s squad was better than the year before and I thought the year before was better than the year before,” Foley said with a laugh. “This team has been put together to win now.”

The other side of the coin is that in order to remain under the league’s salary cap, the Golden Knights were forced to trade away defenseman Nate Schmidt, who Foley said he admired greatly. He also said he was pleased the team was able to retain goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who was a constant subject of trade rumors this offseason.

Foley said he is also excited for the new gold uniforms the Golden Knights unveiled this offseason. He said the gold jerseys are more than a year in the making, and can’t wait to see the gold jerseys on the ice but also on fans in the dark backdrop of T-Mobile Arena’s gray seats.

“I’d like to see us use that several times next year, and maybe someday it replaces the gray and it is our home jersey,” Foley said. “It really is a spectacular jersey.”

Foley said he hopes the expected COVID-19 vaccine rollout goes as planned, and that things start returning to normal by summer. He is extra wary of the virus, considering he had it. Foley said he tested positive in mid-October, which was then confirmed by a follow-up test.

He said he had mild symptoms, including fatigue and loss of taste and smell.

Article written by #LasVegasSun