NHL opens for ‘non’ business

Oct 3, 2006 4:34 AM

The NHL equal in Vegas wagering handle to the WNBA? That pucks!

"I did have a discussion with a customer about hockey," said Jay Kornegay, head of race and sports operations at the Hilton SuperBook and longtime NHL fan. "Unfortunately, the majority of bettors are not hockey fans."

Kornegay’s comments come as the NHL’s chase for the Stanley Cup begins in 30 markets this week. Vegas books are not removed the NHL from the board, but clearly the league is in need of an identity boost.

"With the migration of hockey over the years to the south and southwest (Phoenix, Dallas, Anaheim, Atlanta, Nashville, Miami, Raleigh, Tampa Bay), I thought would increase interest," Kornegay said. "It did for awhile, but ESPN dropping its live coverage hurt the league badly."

Last year’s Cup runnerup Edmonton appears to have great value at 40-1, though the Oilers did lose the league’s top defenseman Chris Pronger to Anaheim.

"I think that was the biggest single impact move in the league during the offseason," Kornegay said. "It certainly brought Anaheim’s odds down quite a bit. The LA Kings acquiring defenseman Rob Blake will hurt Colorado’s chances."

With the odds so spread out, it’s hard to find a good futures bet. The Sabres could surface from that 12-1 group after last year’s loss to Carolina in the Eastern Conference finals.

"Buffalo has a lot of talented young players and the city is dying for a title," Kornegay said. "Boston is the same way, but the Bruins haven’t been the same since dealing Joey Thornton to San Jose. With Thornton aboard, the Sharks are a definite Cup threat."

The NHL regular season runs through April with the Stanley Cup playoffs lasting an additional two months. OLN, now called VS (as in versus TV) is again the main network for televising league games.