CREDIT: Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau

Seven Questions With NHL’s Bill Foley

The owner of the new NHL franchise on the application process, the timetable for the front office and Vegas’ potential

Have you had a quiet moment to yourself to think about what you’ve accomplished?

[The night of the vote and announcement], we got home about quarter to 10. My wife and I and one of our sons came back [to our suite] and we were just sitting around kind of talking about it, how much fun it was and how much fun it’s going to be. So we had a good reflective time. And then I started watching TV. Everyone wants to see themselves on TV [laughing].

How did you think you came across on television?

I’m told I came across OK. I thought I looked fat and old [laughing]. Other than that, it was OK.

If you could go back to the beginning of this process, what advice would you give yourself?

When we started the ticket drive, we were very naïve. We spent a lot of money on things we probably didn’t need to spend money on, and we kind of over-invested. I justified it by saying, “Well, we were always going to spend a lot of money on a ticket drive at some point,” just because we messed up a little bit and we spent $100,000 when we probably didn’t really need to do that. We’re going to be very careful about who we hire, how we hire people, how we get our organization put together, and make sure we do it right. If anything, we’re going to be more patient now as opposed to impatient, which is what we were when we started the ticket drive.

Do you have a model for how you want to build your organization?

The business part of the company is going to be very similar to other businesses I’ve been involved in. When we buy a company or when we start a company, we start building that company from the ground up, so I’ve got a pretty good feel for how to do it and how not to waste money and how to help people stay focused. On the hockey side, we really need to get some experienced people who know what they’re doing, who will help us with our scouting, our expansion draft, free agency and the regular NHL draft. That’s more technical and something I don’t know much about. On the business side, I’ve kind of got it.

How are you going to structure the front office?

Well, you’re looking at the chairman, CEO and president. We’re going to have a general manager, we’re going to have an executive vice president of the front office. I’m going to have a chief operating officer who’s going to be working closely with me and with the other departments and be my eyes and ears. But I’m going to eliminate a couple of positions, and I’m going to take them on. If this thing gets screwed up, it’s going to be my fault and not anyone else’s.

Is that the fun of owning a team? Being involved and making those decisions?

Absolutely. In the companies I’ve been involved with, I’m intimately involved until I don’t need to be. And when I don’t need to be, I step aside and let someone else do what they’ve been hired to do. But until I’m sure they’re doing what I need them to do, I’m going to keep an eye on it. So I’ll be heavily involved. Plus it’s going to be fun. This is really going to be a fun deal.

Do you have a timetable for building the front office?

We need to get our scouting network right away. We need to bring in the first person on the hockey side pretty quickly, but we’ve got to go through a process with the league. The league has got names for us they want us to talk to, and we’re going to present names to the league that they clear, and then we can go to the teams and get clearance to talk to those individuals. So this is going to be a pretty hectic 30-45 days. In the meantime, we’ll get our front office side and we’ll start coming together in terms of social media, marketing, public relations, ticketing, logo, team paraphernalia and so on. So we’ve got dual tracks.

What will be the most important hire?

Probably the general manager. I’m going to make sure it’s a guy who can work with other people well, who leaves his ego at the door, who can listen. But if he feels strongly about something, he probably should make that decision because he’s being hired in that capacity, to be that decision maker.

Have you heard from any other team owners since you were awarded the franchise?

There was a lot of congratulations. A lot of people in the hockey world have called to congratulate me and said, “If you need any help, we’re happy to do it.” Vinnie Viola, who owns the [Florida] Panthers, is a West Pointer. He’s reached out and said, “Anything you need from us, anything you need to know from us, it’s great.” He’s [Eastern Conference] and we’re West, so he’s not too threatened by us. Craig Leipold from the Minnesota Wild [and I] were joking around yesterday, and he said, “Congratulations, it’s great to have you as part of the ownership group.” I asked if he had a couple of players for us and he said, “No, we only have 10 good ones.” [Laughing]

How will the team’s minor league affiliation work?

There are 30 AHL teams and 30 NHL teams. We’re 31, and we believe there’s going to be an expansion opportunity in the AHL, so we believe we’re going to be affiliated with a particular AHL team. It’s mutually beneficial, because we’re going to be able to give them some veteran players out of the expansion draft, which they want because they’re privately owned and they want to create a good team and build their team up. It will also be a place for us to put our draft picks as we go forward, so that’s our plan. We probably won’t own the [AHL] team or be 100 percent involved with the team to start with. It will be a few years.

What kind of potential does the Las Vegas market have when it comes to building the team’s brand?

With 42 million visitors a year here, we’re going to be an international brand. We’re going to brand it with our jerseys, our hats, our T-shirts. People will go back to Shanghai and Tokyo, and they’ll be wearing our jersey with our logo. We’re going to help the NHL a lot in terms of their brand building, but when people think of hockey in America, they’re going to think of this team.