As one of the most famous, one of the most successful professional poker players around, Daniel Negreanu knows a thing or two about calculating pot odds and determining the strength of hands.

The Toronto-born Negreanu, who has cashed in 78 World Series of Poker events, won six World Series bracelets and earned millions in worldwide tournaments, reckons that based on his own research and “hockey analytics” that there’s a 92.4 percent chance that not only will Las Vegas have an NHL franchise soon, the NHL will be successful there.


“That’s not what I said — 92.4 percent,” Negreanu said, laughing, when I interviewed him Thursday morning on radio on KFAN.

Besides the fact that Negreanu is such a hockey fanatic that he has been in a fantasy league for 20 years (the Wild’s Jason Pominville is on his team) and once drafted a kid at 9 years old (seriously, that kid, Jayce Hawryluk, was drafted last year by the Florida Panthers at 32nd overall), he is a member of the potential Vegas franchise’s “Founding 50” that has grown to 75.

Bill Foley, a billionaire businessman, and the Maloof brothers, who used to own the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, all want the NHL to be the first pro sports league to infiltrate Vegas.

A $350 million, 20,000-seat arena is rising in the desert between New York-New York and the Monte Carlo and will be ready to house an NHL team by the 2016-17 season.

Last month, the men brought together a group of high-profile Las Vegas residents, including Negreanu, to not only commit to being season-ticket holders, but to help in a season-ticket drive that will start Tuesday (

They’re hoping for 10,000 season-ticket deposits to prove to Commissioner Gary Bettman and the 30 NHL owners who could split a $500 million expansion (or relocation) fee that Vegas can house a franchise.

Negreanu, 40, has no doubt it can. The man known as “Kid Poker” says Sin City has been “starving for any professional sports franchise for many years, and I think the timing is right.”

On top of 2.2 million residents and large corporations and casinos that should swallow up tickets and suites for high-rollers, Vegas will have the added bonus of thousands of tourists who flock there on a weekly basis.

“Teams like Minnesota, it would be a great opportunity for guys to make an excuse to” watch the Wild play Las Vegas, Negreanu said. “Vegas puts on a show bigger and better than anyone else. We know glitz and glamour. It’s going to be a spectacle.”

He says like Florida, Dallas, Phoenix and California, it’d be a matter of time before hockey takes off at the grass-roots level and rinks pop up all over Vegas.

If the NHL does go to Vegas, the league would request Nevada’s legislature to take the franchise’s games down in sports books. UNLV was successful getting that done with its college basketball team years ago.

Negreanu says nobody should worry about Vegas corruption because of the number of eyeballs watching.

He noted Vegas is no longer mob-run and that players make so much money now, “to dump a game and risk their livelihood doesn’t make any sense.”

If you want to read more of Negreanu’s thoughts on hockey in Vegas, poker and hockey in general, he blogs at

He gives his thoughts on three-point games in the NHL (he hates that formula), the lopsided conferences and plans to soon blog on why his Maple Leafs stink.

Negreanu, by the way, says the two best poker-playing hockey players are Florida’s Roberto Luongo and Toronto’s Phil Kessel.

“[Kessel] loves it. He’s totally into it. He asks me poker questions all the time,” Negreanu said of the former Gopher.

Negreanu’s already giving me poker tips, such as I should see a doctor about the fact that I sweat and get a look of gloom any time I have pocket aces.

“You’ve got to learn to chill in those high-pressure situations,” he said.

Man, I can’t wait for hockey in Vegas!

As Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher jokes, there may be some very low-quality articles written from Vegas.

NHL short takes

Jets’ Kane wants out

Despite Evander Kane signing a six-year, $31.5 million contract after a career-best 30-goal season in September 2012, it’s been long known that Kane wants out of the icy pasture that is Winnipeg.

The beginning of the end could be on the horizon after an ugly week that included him defying team rules by showing up to a game-day meeting in a track suit, having his clothes apparently thrown in the shower by teammate Dustin Byfuglien and then not showing up in time for the team bus to a game he’d eventually be scratched from.

The immature (tweeted a picture of himself flaunting stacks of cash in Vegas during the most recent lockout) but immensely fast, talented winger has since been placed on injured reserve after playing with a shoulder injury that required surgery and will lead to four to six months of rehab. That should complicate the skidding Jets’ ability to trade Kane before the March 2 deadline.

“There’s a standard that everybody needs to live up to,” former Gopher Blake Wheeler told reporters, referring to Kane. “We’re professionals. We make a lot of money. That’s the code we live by. If you don’t like it then there’s other places you can go. This is the way we do things.”

It’ll take a boatload of assets to acquire Kane. To Wild fans dreaming of Kane, it would seem unlikely the Jets would dish him to their biggest rival.

Five on trading block

Big names rumored to be on the move before the deadline: Arizona’s Antoine Vermette, Buffalo’s Chris Stewart, Toronto’s Cody Franson, Ottawa’s Chris Neil and Buffalo’s Tyler Myers.

Sabres coach Ted Nolan hopes rebuilding Buffalo doesn’t trade a 6-8, 25-year-old right-shot, albeit erratic defenseman: “Tyler Myers is one of those guys you build your team around.”

He’s got staying power

Undrafted Mark Giordano, a Norris Trophy contender, played his 500th game for Calgary.

“Came out of nowhere. Fought for everything he’s got. He’s quite a guy,” coach Bob Hartley said.

Wild’s week ahead

Monday: 7 p.m. vs. Vancouver (FSN)

Tuesday: 7 p.m. at Winnipeg (FSN)

Thursday: 7 p.m. vs. Florida (FSN)

Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Carolina (FSN)


Player to watch: Nick Bjugstad, Panthers

The former Gopher has turned into a Panthers standout in only his second season, leading Florida with 17 goals and 32 points.



« We knew somewhere in here there was a good team. We just had to find it. »

— Zach Parise on the resurgent Wild.