LAS VEGAS — The NHL is making a big bet on Las Vegas.

The league will expand to Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season after awarding its 31st franchise to billionaire businessman Bill Foley on Wednesday.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the decision after the league’s board of governors met on a 109-degree day and unanimously voted to put an ice hockey team in the Mojave Desert’s gambling mecca.

“We think this is a tremendously exciting opportunity, not just for Las Vegas, but for the league as well,” Bettman said, calling Las Vegas “a vibrant, growing, global destination city.”

Foley will pay $500 million to the NHL’s other owners as an expansion fee. The new team will play in T-Mobile Arena, the $375 million building that opened just off the Las Vegas Strip in April.

Bettman also announced that an expansion bid from Quebec City was “deferred” indefinitely, allowing Las Vegas to enter the league alone in the Pacific Division. The league’s alignment and playoff format won’t change.

With nearly 2.2 million people in the metropolitan area in the last census, Las Vegas is the largest population center in the U.S. without a team in the major professional sports. Vegas was an economic boomtown in the previous decade, and Foley is betting that its slowed growth hasn’t curbed the city’s appetite for sports and spectacles.

“We want everyone to be a fan,” said Foley, who fell in love with pond hockey while growing up in Canada. “We’re dedicated to it. We’ll leave no stone unturned in our dedication, in our pursuit of hockey for Las Vegas, not just for our team, but for the community.”

The NHL is expanding for the first time since 2000, when Minnesota and Columbus each paid $80 million to join the league.

PATRICK KANE won the Hart Trophy on Wednesday night, becoming the first player born and trained in the U.S. to be named the NHL’s most valuable player.

The Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL scoring champion received three trophies at the league’s annual postseason awards show from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He won the Ted Lindsay Award after his fellow players recognized him as the game’s most outstanding player, and he also accepted the Art Ross Trophy in recognition of his 106-point season.

Kane was the runaway winner of the Hart, getting 121 of the 150 first-place votes. Sidney Crosby finished second with 11 first-place votes, while Dallas’ Jamie Benn was third.

Braden Holtby of Washington finished fourth, but won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie. His coach, Barry Trotz, won the Jack Adams Award for the first time in 17 seasons behind an NHL bench, recognizing the Capitals’ impressive Presidents’ Trophy season.

Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar took home the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward, denying the Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron a third straight Selke and fourth overall. Bergeron was second in the voting.

Kopitar also won the Lady Byng Trophy for his gentlemanly play.

Kopitar’s teammate, Drew Doughty, won his first Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, beating out Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and San Jose’s Brent Burns.

Chicago forward Artemi Panarin won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. The 24-year-old Russian beat out No. 1 draft pick Connor McDavid of Edmonton, whose debut was shortened by a broken collarbone.

Jaromir Jagr, the Florida Panthers’ 44-year-old leading scorer, was awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

THE ARIZONA Coyotes signed defenseman Alex Goligoski to a five-year, $27.375 million contract after acquiring the 30-year-old’s negotiating rights in a trade with Dallas last week.

Goligoski was expected to be one of the top free agent defensemen on the market.