LAS VEGAS — It was a typical day in the life of nascent NHL owner Bill Foley. He sat in on his team’s first mock expansion draft and offered polite suggestions on players he thinks might be of interest to his more hockey-savvy staff.
Then Foley and GM George McPhee answered questions from dozens of fans in the inviting plaza that will no doubt become the focal point of pregame festivities when the expansion Las Vegas Something Knights begins play next season. During the fan session, Foley took a swipe at the prospect of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas, suggesting that any public monies that might be committed to a stadium for the NFL team could be better put to use on schools, health care and the like.
Then he was off to nearby T-Mobile Arena, where he appeared on the ice before a preseason game between the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche with Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille, a top executive with the Kings, for a ceremony that marked the end of the Kings’ longstanding relationship with the gambling mecca, where the team has long held preseason games. Robitaille handed over the torch (or in this case, a hockey stick) to signal the shift to the Las Vegas home team.
I caught up with Foley shortly after the on-ice ceremony in his suite beneath the stands for an update on the team name, its jersey and how things are shaping up for Las Vegas’ first professional team.
ESPN.com: What’s it like to be at the table with your staff for the mock draft and start the discussion about what this team is going to look like?
Foley: It’s so much fun. I mean, I really didn’t bring anything to the party, other than to ask a few questions about certain players and give some input and some advice and so on. I had no input in the way they were ranking people and who they thought would be available or wouldn’t be available. But the business situations I’m normally in, where I’m grinding it out every day, are not fun. Someone’s quit, or someone’s done something they shouldn’t have done, or the company’s not doing what it should be doing. This is fun.
ESPN.com: You’re now three months into ownership. Is it different than you imagined?
Foley: It is different because I didn’t realize all the things I would have to do. I’ve never gone through interview processes like I’ve been through in this situation. I interviewed, either by telephone or in person, seven different candidates for GM, three over a six-day period. They came in. I met each candidate. We had dinner. I met them the next morning, then they left. The next guy came in. I met him, we had dinner, that whole process. Then you go through and do it again with the guy you really like.
Then, in George’s case, we had a nice party at Rock Creek in Montana, where we signed the contract together. Went in, had a couple of glasses of wine. Flew down and had the press conference. And the same thing with the president of business ops. It was exhausting. I never interviewed people like that. I was like, normally, “Come on, you’re in, let’s go.”
ESPN.com: Do you feel more like a hockey guy now, especially looking at the staff you have? There’s so much experience in that room.
Foley: Absolutely. I still know nothing, and I recognize that. I told the guys that this morning. I said, “You can say anything you want to say. I’m just Bill Foley. I’m just another guy sitting at this table. I want to learn.” But it was so much fun listening to them talk about players and why they like this guy or that guy. It was amazing.