— The National Hockey League took its first shift Monday in this sun-drenched city during a press conference to highlight its move of the 2009 NHL Awards here June 18. While explaining this year's event will feature more players, celebrities, business partners and fans than ever before, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also announced the League will be staging a celebrity/pro athlete charity poker tournament June 17.
"For years there has been a charitable component to the Awards program," said Bettman at the Ghost Bar outdoor terrace in the Palms Hotel Las Vegas high above the famed strip of hotels and casinos. "I am pleased to announce today that the NHL will team with Pokerstars.net and the NHL Players' Association to present [the poker tournament] in connection with the 2009 NHL Awards."
Bettman was joined in remarks at the podium by George Maloof, owner of the Palms Hotel Las Vegas, which will welcome hockey's greatest players after the 2009 Stanley Cup Final is decided. Bettman and Maloof stood with the Stanley Cup, and Hart, Vezina, Lady Byng and Calder trophies and an idyllic blue sky as the backdrop. It was just another day for "Stanley," 55 stories in the air, posing for pictures with showgirls after the media briefing.
"Standing here on this magnificent terrace and with this spectacular view, I look forward even more to coming back for the Awards in June," said Bettman. "We are extremely pleased to be here and excited about returning in June with our top performers. Las Vegas is an ideal showcase for outstanding talent from the entertainment world, and I think there is more than enough room on this grand stage for the best athletes in sports, as well."
The city's mayor, Oscar B. Goodman, plus Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO/president Rossi Ralenkotter were also on hand to mark the occasion.
Maloof said he was "thrilled that his hotel" could establish a "Las Vegas first" by hosting a sports league awards event.
"Another Las Vegas first is it will be the first time ever that the NHL Awards have been broadcast live in the U.S.," said Maloof.
The 2009 NHL Awards will be broadcast on a Thursday night from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel, which hosts big-name acts every week. Versus will handle the U.S. telecast and CBC will do the honors in Canada.
The League has not yet announced its broadcast partner for the "NHL Charity Shootout Presented by Pokerstars.net" event, which will include NHL stars, NHL alumni and celebrity guests. The format will be the popular No Limit Texas Hold'em familiar to television viewers.
With nominees for such awards as the Hart (most valuable player), Vezina (top goalie), Norris (top defenseman) and Calder (top rookie) in Vegas that week, the poker tournament promises to be fun for all involved — and the mind does wander with possibilities of which NHL stars will bluff or fold. It will raise money for the Ronald McDonald House in Las Vegas and the NHL Players Association's "Goals and Dreams" charity. Players will also make donations to the charities of their choice.
During a question period for media, Bettman explained that since the NHL Players’ Association is holding its players meeting here that week in June, he anticipated "record attendance" for the Awards night. He said the 300-mile distance from Los Angeles might well encourage "more ways to clearly relate" to the Hollywood entertainment community as part of the June festivities.
This year's Awards celebration represents the inaugural event in a three-year agreement the NHL signed with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The 2009 NHL Awards host and entertainment portion of the Awards show will be announced soon.
"Las Vegas is an ideal showcase for outstanding talent from the entertainment world, and I think there is more than enough room on this grand stage for the best athletes in sports, as well." -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
Fans can buy tickets for the 2009 Awards in Las Vegas at ticketmaster.com/nhlawards
or at the Pearl Concert Theater Box Office inside the Palms Hotel. Ticket will grant fans unprecedented access, including a seat alongside the NHL stars, celebrities and other NHL VIPs. Plus, the same ticket will gain admittance to the NHL official after-party at the Rain nightclub.