For hockey fans in Las Vegas and Quebec City, the wait begins in earnest to find out if their respective ownership groups were impressive enough, persuasive enough and thorough enough to convince the NHL's most powerful men they deserve a franchise.
Tuesday marked the end of the third phase of the expansion process as representatives from Las Vegas and Quebec City made presentations to members of the executive committee of the NHL’s board of governors.
Bill Foley, the wealthy financial cornerstone of the Las Vegas bid, met with the NHL’s executive committee prior to making a formal presentation to the Board of Governors in New York. He outlined the city’s plans for a new NHL team that would play out of the Las Vegas Arena, which is under construction at the end of the city’s famous strip of casinos and resorts.
Foley also answered questions from the executive committee, including influential owners Ed Snider of the Philadelphia Flyers, Ted Leonsis of the Washington Capitals and Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins.
"Very positive meeting," Foley told ESPN.com via email Tuesday afternoon.
"Lots of good engaging questions. Now we just have to wait."
For about an hour, Foley described his own commitment to the process, how he has moved to Las Vegas and set up an office in the city. There was discussion of the trial season ticket drive green lighted by the NHL in early 2015 that generated more than 13,500 deposits mostly from individuals, groups and small businesses. The executive committee also asked about the arena project, which is being undertaken by AEG, who own the Los Angeles Kings and MGM Resorts International. Foley has already worked out a tentative lease arrangement should his group’s expansion bid be successful.
"Lots of great questions, and I felt we were well received," Foley added.
So, what will be worse, the process or waiting to see if it was all enough?
"Feel great," Foley said. "Now it's just patience."
The Quebec group, led by Pierre Dion, went through a similar process in meeting with the executive committee. The Quebec presentation was buoyed by the images of a packed house at the brand new Videotron Center in Quebec City where the Montreal Canadiens played the Pittsburgh Penguins in a preseason game Monday night.
"People are so happy. This venue is ready for an NHL team," Dion told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun at Monday’s game.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, another member of the Quebec expansion bid led by communications giant Quebecor, told reporters in New York the group is confident an expansion team can be successful in Quebec City in spite of a weak Canadian dollar that is trading at less than $.75 US.
As part of Quebecor's presentation on Tuesday, it underlined its long-term business plan, which takes into account a volatile Canadian dollar, a source told LeBrun.
But is the NHL ready for Quebec City or Vegas for that matter?
It’s difficult to imagine Tuesday’s presentations were anything more than the icing on the expansion cake as far as both the league and the two groups are concerned.
The presentations represented the third and presumably final stage of a rigorous and expensive process that saw both sides commit $10 million to engage in the bid process, $2 million of which is non-refundable. Investors who are part of the two groups have all been vetted and business and marketing plans laid out for league scrutiny.
After being briefed on the bids Tuesday by the executive committee, the NHL’s board of governors are expected to mull over the pros and cons of expansion and make a decision on whether to move forward with expansion at the board’s meetings in California on Dec. 7-8. If the executive committee does recommend the league expands, a three-quarters vote of the 30 governors is required to pass.
But NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated Tuesday there is no firm deadline the league will follow in deciding on expansion, and the final decision may in fact be not to expand at all.
"There’s much work to be done," Bettman told reporters in New York late Tuesday after the governors’ meeting ended.
He warned there would be at least one more meeting of the board before a decision was made and left the door open to more. He also repeated there is no "predetermined outcome" for the expansion process.
Still, given that expansion fees will be at least $500 million US (or about $671 million CDN), it’s difficult to see that owners would not want to add at least one if not two teams to the current 30-team roster given the money does not have to be shared with the Players’ Association because it is not considered hockey-related revenues under the current collective bargaining agreement.
Of course, that’s assuming owners can be assured the new franchises can be self-sustaining and profitable on their own merits, not a future drain on league resources through revenue sharing.
Las Vegas remains the favorite to be granted an expansion team that would start play in the 2017-18 season given the groundswell of support from the community and the fact the NHL would be the first major professional sports league to be based in the popular resort and gambling city.
But like everyone in the hockey world, especially those in Vegas and Quebec City, confirmation of that belief will simply have to wait at least a few more months.