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NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed that the league has been in discussions with powerful film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer about owning a franchise in Las Vegas, amid growing speculation that the NHL is on the verge of proposing expansion to Las Vegas and K.C. A group led by Bruckheimer, an avid hockey fan, is the front-runner for the Las Vegas expansion and has been in talks with NHL officials for months, sources said. Additionally, Bruckheimer has had discussions with AEG officials about that group potentially building and/or operating an NHL arena in Las Vegas. AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke would not comment on that, but said in a statement, "Jerry is like a brother. I will be there to support him anywhere he wants to go." Bruckheimer is said to be the leader of a group of entertainment execs, including MGM Studios Chair & CEO Harry Evans Sloan, who want to own the Las Vegas team. Neither Paul Bloch, Bruckheimer's publicist, nor MGM spokesperson Jeff Pryor would comment.[
DALY: Daly, asked to confirm or deny whether the NHL had discussions with Bruckheimer about owning an NHL team in Las Vegas, said in an e-mail, "Bruckheimer is one of many people we have spoken to about their desire to own a team in Vegas." Daly added that "no decisions have been made" by the NHL BOG about expanding the league from 30 to 32 teams and that "there's no 'agreement' with anyone" to own an expansion team. But he said, "There have been many expressions of interest by a number of individuals and a number of cities," including Las Vegas and K.C., where AEG manages the city-owned Sprint Center, set to open in October. At the Stanley Cup Finals Game Four in Ottawa on Monday, there was a buzz that an announcement about the league considering expansion to Las Vegas and K.C. was imminent, hockey sources said. Asked about that, Daly wrote, "I don't know if or when there might be an announcement. We will update the Board on the expressions of interest we have received."
A HOCKEY GUY: There has been speculation for more than a year that Bruckheimer, producer of dozens of films and television shows, including the "CSI" series and spinoffs and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, has wanted to own an NHL franchise, and he was said to have been interested in buying the Penguins. Since October '06, when Bruckheimer attended a dinner at Staples Center with Leiweke and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, media outlets have reported the producer has been talking to the league about how to better market the game. However, sources said that the primary purpose of the meetings was to discuss Bruckheimer owning an NHL team in Las Vegas.
VEGAS ARENA: One sports facilities source closely tied to AEG said that the firm has a "standing offer" to Bruckheimer that AEG would develop, operate and possibly own the building in Las Vegas. Bill Rhoda, a consultant for CSL Int'l, which is managing the process for the city to select an arena developer, said AEG was one of seven developer-led teams that submitted letters of intent last Thursday to build a new downtown arena (AEG co-owns an arena developer, Tim Romani's Icon Venue Group). The others:
* Real Estate Interests, with urban planner RTKL.
* Raul Walters Properties, with architect HNTB and sports executive Kiki Vandeweghe.
* Star Development, with architect Ellerbe Becket.
* Postolos Group, led by former Rockets President George Postolos.
* Medallion Financial Corp., led by Andrew Murstein, who tried to buy the Penguins with Mark Cuban and Dan Marino in '06.
* Las Vegas Land Partners.
Others attending the May 14 pre-proposal conference in Vegas included officials from general contractors Hunt and Turner and architects HKS, EwingCole and David M. Schwarz.
TIMING: The season when a team would start play isn't known, but the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which has played host to L.A. Kings preseason games, could be available as an interim home if a new arena has not been completed. Vegas' biggest arena, the Thomas & Mack Center, does not have an ice sheet.