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NHL-to-Vegas talks gaining steam

Aug 26, 2014, 9:57 PM EST

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The possibility of NHL expansion has become a popular topic lately and Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher’s recent report has only added fuel to that flame.

He wrote:

Sources close to the situation have indicated Las Vegas is a done deal, the only thing to be determined being which owner will be entitled to proclaim that he brought the first major league sports franchise to Sin City.

Gallagher went on to suggest that one or more other western cities were likely to be included in the NHL’s eventual expansion plans, but it was the idea that the NHL going to Vegas is a done deal that obviously attracted the most attention.

Although the idea of an NHL team being founded in Sin City might seem like a pipe dream, the suggestion of it happening isn’t without precedence.

Back in December, TSN’s Bob McKenzie suggested that Vegas was second to only Seattle on the list of possible expansion destinations for the NHL. However, at the time he added that there “are no formal plans for expansion.”

The NHL also has established a presence in Las Vegas as the Kings have played an annual preseason game in Nevada since 1997 (with the exception of 2004 and 2012 due to the lockouts) and Vegas has hosted the league’s award show.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was noncommittal when talking about the possibility in June, but he also wasn’t dismissive.

“I know Las Vegas is an important city,” Bettman said. “Whether or not it’s a city for the NHL to put a team in is still to be determined. We have not done any investigating as to whether or not the city could support the NHL or looked at potential ownership groups. If the owners were to approve expansion, we would certainly begin looking more closely at Las Vegas and other potential markets.”

Bettman also said back in 2009 that it was only a matter of time before Vegas got a professional sports team. Whether or not its the NHL that first takes the plunge into Vegas remains to be seen.

Related:

Is the NHL getting closer to putting a team in Vegas?

  1. alicesrightfootesq - Aug 26, 2014 at 9:58 PM

    Suck it, Quebec.

    • hockey412 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      Eh, Seatle or Quebec could still get theirs.

      Serious question though, are they going to legalize hooking for the games played in Vegas?

    • royalvoyager - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      This is the greatest comment i have ever seen

  2. sixchr - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    I have to imagine this means that Seattle, Quebec City, and/or others are close as well. I want hockey teams in markets that care.

  3. flyerspsu - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Seattle and Quebec deserve it much more

  4. mianfr - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    *Jaromir Jagr frantically calls his agent to check when he’s a free agent again*

  5. jb8588 - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    If this is true…wow what a bold move! I admit Bettman isn’t a favorite of mine, but some of these cities that he has expanded to during his tenure have been great markets. I’ve personally been to Raleigh and Nashville, and both places I would not of seen in the slightest where hockey would succeed, but yet it has. Maybe Vegas is that next spot despite all of the skepticism. Having a team is Vegas I admit would be pretty freakin’ sweet and if they do expand, Seattle should be the second team added without a doubt.

  6. deathbat20 - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Wow I’m surprised that Vegas got a team before Seattle or Quebec, though I feel like Seattle could come in at the same time as Vegas to even out the conferences

  7. ravenscaps48 - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Tremendous!

  8. justinhbhb - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    Not Surprised. Seattle will follow. Like I have said here before the league’s 100 year anniversary is coming up and it is a huge media spike for the league to expand. It also gives them the time to settle arena issues and buildings.

  9. quizguy66 - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:30 PM

    Wonder if Gretzky and Tocchet will be part of the ownership group…

  10. killerpgh - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:33 PM

    I have no problem with a team being placed in Vegas. I usually go out to Vegas once or twice a year and would differently catch a game while I was out there. I just don’t understand how the NHL can agree to put a team in Vegas with all the sport betting when the NHL was part of the group (NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA and NCAA) that sued New Jersey a year or two ago when NJ wanted to legalize sports betting.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      It would seem obvious to most that this would be a big issue.

  11. mnwildandcaps8 - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    Honest question here since I was quite young when my hometown Minny got our Hockey back to the State of Hockey. Norm Green is a complete POS what exactly happens when their is expansion? I understand that teams give up picks and players to form the team but I don’t know exactly happens. I could see the teams that went farthest in the playoffs give up better players then teams that ended in the bottom. Can someone help me out?

    • killerpgh - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:04 PM

      Here is how it the NHL handled it in 2000. I would guess it would be similar.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_NHL_Expansion_Draft

      • blomfeld - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:18 PM

        thanks Killer …
        I was just wondering about that after reading his post … the top 15 or so players are protected on each team, which essentially leaves nothing more than a bunch of B and C grades … and as best as I can remember, it’s always been that way since the 70’s …

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:53 AM

        I don’t like the CFL at all but I think they way they handled the recent expansion was what the NHL should do, the year before the expansion team (Ottawa in this case) was allowed to play they allowed them to take part in the draft, thus building a prospect base and giving them two draft classes coming in the year they started playing (in Canada college players can be drafted and then go back to school for a year) if the NHL expands, which it seems like they will, why not allow the expansion teams to do this even if it’s the last picks of each round, at least it gives them a chance to start building cause Blomfeld is right (never thought I would say that!) they’ll only get mediocre players via the expansion draft.

      • jinx21fan - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:55 AM

        The salary cap would definitely add a twist to things. Teams might try to get out from a contract and leave a bit better quality player available – simply letting a player go for cap relief and nothing else. Would the expansion team be expected to meet the cap floor immediately? if so, would they have higher end players made available to do that? If not, would they be given a gradual “slide” with “X” amount of years to get to the floor? It certainly is a different era than the last expansion.

      • JoeAvg - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:17 AM

        Excellent point jinx21fan. Requiring expansion teams to reach the floor will serve to drive up the cost of signing bottom 6 and 3rd pair players for the whole league. That can add up fast. The expansion fee is gonna have be huge.

        Personally I think the talent pool is spread thin enough as it is and that expansion into the Western desert has proved to be a bust – but what do I know.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        My hunch is, yes the expansion teams would be required to at least reach the cap floor. It’s part of the CBA and every team would have to follow it.

        I’m going in the assumption the league will expand by 2 teams. I’m also assuming both expansion teams would start the same season. There would be a coin flip for what franchise wants to either pick higher in the draft or pick first in the expansion draft. (Minnesota had 3rd in 2000 and Columbus 4th. Minnesota won the coin toss and elected the higher draft pick as opposed to the first pick in the expansion draft).

        Existing teams now are going to be allowed to protect either one goaltender, five defensemen, and nine forwards or two goaltenders, three defensemen, and seven forwards. It may not sound like a lot of players can protected. But the expansion draft is usually held the weekend of the entry draft, which is before July 1, so teams will expose big names, the players who are unrestricted free agents in order to keep more of their players protected. Also Minnesota and Columbus were able to make trades with teams that had players exposed. Both Minnesota and Columbus were able to get prospects/draft picks for not selecting Nabakov.

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 27, 2014 at 4:40 PM

        Not sure about whether they would have to reach the cap floor, but if they were put in to the cap structure right away, in theory adding two teams would push the salary cap down for a year or two. Based on league wide revenues (which the two teams haven’t added to yet) and the players percentage of that now being split 32 ways instead of 30 it would push the cap and cap floor down. Because of that I would think that the players and teams that are up against the cap would push for the new teams to be exempt from the salary cap/salary floor equation for at least 1 or 2 years.

    • spydey629 - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:07 PM

      The rules tend to change with each expansion (SJ, TB & OTT, FLA & ANA, NSH-ATL-CBJ-MIN). Usually, the existing teams submit a list of protected players (15-18), then the expansion team(s) pick the available players, round-by-round like you would in your fantasy draft.

      Rules have changed over the years over to what made minor league players available, but that’s the jist of it.

      Expansion teams usually get placed high in the draft (4th or 5th), but don’t get the top pick right off the bat.

      • jinx21fan - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:13 PM

        I would assume that any expansion team would be lottery eligible, with odds adjusted accordingly to include them.

  12. govtminion - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    This makes perfect sense. With the NHL’s record of smashing success in teams in desert climates, what could go wrong?

    OK, ok, Coyotes jokes aside, I’m not really sure I like this. And it has nothing to do with the gambling end of things- well, not directly. Do people in Vegas- like, Vegas RESIDENTS- want an NHL team? Are they going to come out to games to support their local team? Or are we looking at a situation where the people in the stands every night are there to root for whomever their home team is, who happen to be in town while they’re in Vegas anyway? Put another way, will there be Vegas jerseys in the crowd, or Kings/Stars/Blackhawks/etc. every night?

    I don’t want another situation where a team fails because the local fans stop caring about a struggling expansion team like Atlanta. So if the league really wants this, I hope they’re really thinking about who their fan base is in this city- the local fans or the tourists… and how they’ll sell it to whichever one they want to focus on.

    • jinx21fan - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      Gambling is always the first reason given. But you are right, there are many other legitimate reason they don’t have a major pro team there. Las Vegas has roughly a population of 600,000 people. Out of that you have to assess the number that would support a team. Plus there’s an old adage about Vegas … at any given time half the pop. is working and the other half is sleeping. Because of it’s size it’s TV rights would be worth next to nothing. You would get some ticket sales from visitors (like me) but Vegas is not lacking in entertainment. There is competition for tourism dollars. If Vegas was some great sports town that would make a league tons of money they’d have a team.

      • letsgolightning - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:21 AM

        The population within city limits is 600k, but the metro area is around 1.4m. This is like saying that Tampa can’t support a team because the city only has 350k residents (the Tampa Bay MSA is at around 2.8m).

        For comparison, the entire Winnipeg metro area is at around 700k residents, so Vegas is already twice that size. Obviously, the average Winnipegian(?) is mush more likely to go to a game than a Las Vegan, but they definitely have something to work with. I suspect that there will be a LOT of away-team fans, similar to the other sunbelt teams- but that will keep the team fluid until they get good.

      • jinx21fan - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:03 AM

        Population point taken.

        I actually found it closer to 2.0M. Seattle at 2.5M (both of which dwarf Buffalo) Proving again that proximity to a Canadian fan base can help ticket sales.

        Who knows, maybe Seattle and Vegas come in together and QC waits to poach. I still would go down to Vegas and lay money on Seattle getting the a franchise before or, at the very least, the same time as Vegas.

      • JoeAvg - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:38 AM

        Ticket sales might not be a problem because of the visiting teams fans but who’s gonna buy the jerseys, the T-shirts, the bobbleheads, the pucks, the hats, the keychains, the toilet paper, and all the other garbage they peddle. A nice chunk of team revenue is generated by the rights to the logo on these. Without a home fan base, this doesn’t exist.

    • beyor35 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      There are plenty of hockey fans in Vegas but I’m sure you’d end up with a ton of visiting fans. People would end up planning their trip to Vegas around their team’s road game…

  13. jinx21fan - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    Aside from the fact Tony Gallagher is the west coast answer to Steve Simmons, I’ll believe this when it happens. It seems every year or so the Vegas rumours start-up, I remember when the Vegas was on the “short-list” to get the Expos. Don’t get me wrong, I get to Vegas a couple times a year on a very short flight – having a NHL team there would be fine by me. I almost feel sorry for sport fans there, they get toyed with a lot.

    I honestly believe this has been floated out there to posture for other cities that have expressed interest in an expansion team. Ironically enough, I think Vegas is the ultimate bargaining “chip” for sports leagues. MLB, the NBA, and the NHL have all been linked there only to ultimately end up elsewhere. Vegas is having trouble getting a MLS team for Pete sakes. It may happen one day, but I’d be willing to bet it’s well after Seattle and Quebec City have entered the league.

    • spydey629 - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:17 PM

      I did find it slightly odd that this got floated out the same day that news of a Vegas MLS-stadium deal being finalized hit the wires.

      • jinx21fan - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:41 PM

        I hadn’t heard that. I know they were trying to get a MLS franchise. It might serve the NHL (or one of the other leagues) well to sit back and monitor that franchise for a while before deciding. I have no moral objections to Vegas, I think Seattle and QC still should be higher on the list though. Of course, you need arena deals and other things to fall into place. It’s not a bad thing to have options.

    • blomfeld - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:04 AM

      I CONCUR …

      the Vegas angle has been out there for a while now, however like you I also suspect that this is nothing more than a ‘bargaining chip’ to leverage more favorable terms elsewhere …

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:56 AM

        Much like the NFL and Los Angeles, if they ever moved a team there then they wouldn’t be able to have their other teams threaten to move there unless they get a new stadium.

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        And I actually concur with you on this point;)

  14. El Pollo Loco - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:33 PM

    Vegas is building an arena at the end of the strip which will be ready in 2016.Frozen Fury draws well every year and the now defunct Wranglers drew well for an ECHL club.Vegas will work only if the city(see Wynn Steve) gets behind it and they win.

  15. mnwildandcaps8 - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:52 PM

    Thanks killerpgh and spydey629. I was only 10 when that expansion happened. I am excited. They need two more teams in the West to make it 16 and 16 teams instead of this 16 and 14 team split. My vote is putting one in Seattle and Quebec. It would be cool to have one in Vegas but I believe the arena would be filled with fans of the visiting teams. I have never been to Vegas but I would go to see the Wild play there for my first time! I would like to see Ovie and the Caps but I want to see them at the Verizon center first!

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      You just contridicted yourself. I agtee the league needs to get to 32, thus a 16/16 split, but QC works against that.

  16. jcmeyer10 - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    Sorry, I’m not feeling it. Give me Quebec and Seattle.

  17. mnwildandcaps8 - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    Agreed ^^

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:07 AM

      Shout out to the Xcel Center. Me and my lady are from Boston but loved seeing the Wild play the Kings last year. The fans could not have been friendlier.

  18. jcmeyer10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:09 AM

    Hell Portland feels like it has more potential with the MLS/minor league hockey support.

  19. hosewater2 - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    Help me understand why Seattle “deserves” a team. They have no arena ready and waiting. No truly firm timetable for shovel to hit dirt. Highly doubt the public financing will come through.

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:09 AM

      I suppose getting screwed out of the Sonics doesn’t do much for NHL fans.

      In all seriousness the rivalry of Seattle and Vancouver would make it easy for a franchise to develop rivalries and become relevant I suppose. Add a team in Portland and it makes more sense.

      Not afraid to hear counter points I promise. Sock it to me.

    • jinx21fan - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:12 AM

      Well, I guess the fact is we’ve all heard Seattle for so long now we just take it for granted. There are some very good reasons to make Seattle a priority though. First you add a badly needed team to the Western Conference, and specifically to the NW to ease travel for numerous teams. Seattle is the 15th largest market in the USA (and 2nd largest without an NHL team – Houston). Spokane, Portland, Seattle have proven to be very good markets in the WHL – the proximity to mainland BC gives you about as close as you can get to automatic sellouts no matter what.

      They have had huge players involved with bringing a team there. Hansen and Ballmer (he’s ownership of the Clippers clouds his involvement now) and other big time money players are on board. The biggest reason, the NHL wants (and is served) with a team in that geographical location.

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:02 AM

        I’m pretty neutral on the Seattle NHL thing but the one point I would make is that the NHL and WHL are two different fan bases and two very different price points, so you can’t necessarily draw a line between the two. In Calgary we have the Flames (obviously) which have very expensive tickets and a lot more corporate people going (18,289 every game) and we also have the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL which is geared, and priced, much more towards younger families and entire teams going to see them. Because the two tickets are marketed to the different groups both clubs draw really well with almost separate fan bases going to see them.

      • jinx21fan - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:35 AM

        Absolutely. I wasn’t trying to infer that a successful amateur or minor pro team in any region automatically translates to a successful location for one of the big leagues. For some of the reasons you outline.

        However, It is reasonable to say it’s an advantage. If nothing else, you know your target market is at least familiar with your product. You shouldn’t have to put on clinics, or buy TV ad time, to explain what an icing is. Being from Lethbridge, I make it to Flame games as well as our Hurricanes.

    • jinx21fan - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:32 AM

      I also found this article discussing the arena issue.

      http://www.theprovince.com/sports/hockey/canucks-hockey/Bringing+Seattle+city+council/10116098/story.html

      • hosewater2 - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        Interesting link.

        Seattle makes sense geographically, no argument there.

        I just think this is all way premature, they haven’t elaborated on how to get the public money they’re asking for, are they planning an initiative to the voters? When will that occur? Will it pass in a liberal political climate where everything that can possibly be painted as corporate welfare (and these projects may very well be, see downtown Detroit arena) is soundly rejected?

        Yes I’m raining on your parade, but trying to inject some realism here.

  20. rainyday56 - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:17 AM

    The Canadian Football League gave it a try with the Vegas Posse. Despite the fact they had and decent team (all Americans) the experiment did not last long.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 27, 2014 at 4:44 PM

      The best part about that entire thing was that the field was too wide for the playing surface so they had 50 yards of grass or turf (can’t remember which was which) with the extra 13.5 yards of width being the other playing surface.

  21. mnwildandcaps8 - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:45 AM

    @jcmeyer10 also nice to hear good things about Minny! I guess MN nice kind of speaks for itself.I don’t ever want to leave here! The X is my second home I feel we have some of the most passionate fans. Hell the Vikes suck but we still fill the stadium. As for thinking Seattle is a good spot for a hockey team is the proximity to Vancouver. It could develop into a great rivalry. Plus fans could decide to go see a Seattle team because they can’t get tickets to a Canucks game. I personally have not been to either Vancouver or Seattle but I have heard great things about Vancouver from my Dad. I would love I go to Vancouver to see a Wild/Canucks game. I also think Portland could be a great city for a new NHL team. I suppose we will see what happens!

  22. mnwildandcaps8 - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:52 AM

    Meant to say always nice to hear good things about Minny! Damn autocorrect

  23. vipod4ever - Aug 27, 2014 at 6:22 AM

    The only question now is the name?

    The Vegas …………. (have fun!)

    • hockeydon10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:45 AM

      Sin Eaters

    • hockey412 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      Hookers.

    • avfanforlife - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:46 AM

      Las Vegas Mobsters?

  24. hockeydon10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    Seattle Metro Area: 3.5 million people
    Portland Metro Area: 2.2 million people
    Las Vegas Metro Area: 2.0 million people
    Kansas City Metro Area: 2.0 million people
    Quebec City Metro Area: 765 thousand people

    Aside from going back to areas that lost their team in the past an it being in Canada, what is it about Quebec City that screams “successful franchise”?

    (I’m not being snarky here. I just really don’t get it from the point of view of running an entertainment business, as the NHL really is.)

    Yes, I understand that population is only one of many factors that doesn’t automatically lead to success (re: Coyotes, Arizona). However, at some point having 3x the population (Portland) or 4-1/2x the population (Seattle) really does begin to outweigh other factors in favor of a metro area with only 765k.

    • jinx21fan - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:18 AM

      There is a great read “The New Economics of the NHL” by Tony Keller (sorry for no link, but you can google it).

      There’s no question the falling dollar is hurting the cause, but make no mistake Canadian teams and television revenue drive the NHL.

    • JoeAvg - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      “…what is it about Quebec City that screams “successful franchise”?”

      How about the fact that hockey generates an almost religious fervor for those 765K? The Nordiques didn’t move for lack of support, that’s for sure.

      • hockeydon10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        Sure. I certainly understand their passion. It’s just that I would imagine at some point the population difference (selling more of whatever) really comes into play.

        I see the Jets were listed as a money making team — pop just under Q. City — while the Wild were money losing tam — with double the pop of QC. (Both, of course, are passionate about hockey.)

        I guess I was more commenting that there had to be a cut-off point where it makes less business sense to cater to small markets. Of course I don’t know where that is, so perhaps it could go even smaller than QC.

  25. longlivethewhale - Aug 27, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    For better or for worse, this would certainly give the NHL some media coverage. Exposure and press are great when trying to build the league, which is exactly what would happen. Being the first pro franchise in Sin City is a risk other leagues might not need too take…but as football and basketball and baseball and soccer continue to bring in record revenue this might be a necessary step for Bettman and the league if they want to keep up.

  26. bobc74 - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    What about the arena that was built in attempt to lure the Penguins to Kansas City? The Sprint Center.

  27. echech88 - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    It would be the hardest market to develop a local fan base for (so many who live in Vegas are from elsewhere) but it would certainly be a wild atmosphere and the #1 road-team tourist destination to catch a game.

  28. jinx21fan - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Well, there’s reports of FOUR teams now for 2017. We’ll see how this plays out.

    https://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/nhl-expansion-to-las-vegas-and-the-dumb-deal-on–done-deal-065603703.html

    • jinx21fan - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      I’m trying to wrap my head around a 4 team expansion???? If any of this is more than media speculation. A big concern was the watering down of talent even further, and that was with 2 teams joining.

      A second team in TO hurts the Sabres as much, or more so, than the Leafs (it does hurt the Leafs though obviously). That team will be paying a huge, huge fee to enter that territory. It also still leaves unbalanced Conferences.

  29. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    Las Vegas would be a big mistake – questionable from a metro size and economic makeup. Way too may in the service industry. Please don’t anyone take this as racist (I speak espanol), but how many hispanics do you see at NHL games? Soccer, sure. Wintersports?

    QC is a distination point – for a failing EC franchise, period.

    The rational expansion sites are clearly Seattle and Portland. Respotes balance to the conferences, and clearly have the population base to succeed.

  30. blackhawks2010 - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:19 PM

    Seattle should be first on the merit of the fanbase and support they will receive. NHL as a major winter sport will draw huge crowds in Seattle. A start for rivalry with a Vancouver and CA teams is a bonus also.

    Bottom line, get it done NHL! If you need to move Phoenix to make it happen, so be it, Phoenix is a garbage market for sports, let alone a winter sport. NHL should hold attendance numbers as the threshold and penalize markets who don’t or can’t draw. Screw the fair weather fans.

    • hosewater2 - Sep 1, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      They are so well supported they have already secured the public money to build their currently non-existent arena right?

      We’ll see how well supported they are when that initiative hits the ballot, good luck.

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