While Sin City remains a hub for casino-goers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, snowbirds, and those looking for a good poolside party, there is a new incentive to visit this oasis in the middle of the desert: the sports teams.
While Las Vegas has a long history with sports due to its allure of boxing heavyweight championships, this city has further solidified its standing as a sportshub with the recent arrival of the Vegas Golden Knights. The expansion team was welcomed into the NHL in 2016 with a 2017-18 first season.
People first caught word of a potential Las Vegas expansion team in 2014. Despite reports that the creation of a new team was a certainty, higher-ups such as deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, denied these claims. In November 2014, it was believed that the league had began an ownership group for the expansion team, but again, these reported remained unconfirmed.
Then, in order to gauge interest, a ticket drive was held in February 2015. The results were impressive. The first day amounted in $5,000 of deposits with parties placing ten percent down on 2016-17 season tickets. The goal of $10,000 was reached by April 2015.
In early 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights began forming their impressive team, and on April 13, the head coach was announced as Gerard Gallant. In June 21, the team selected an available player from the other 30 teams in the NHL during the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.
The Vegas Golden Knights made history at the inaugural home game on October 10, 2017 when they defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-2, setting a start to the season at 3-0. This game not only began an impressive winning streak, it honored the victims of the October 1 mass shooting at the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas.
The economic impact of the Vegas Golden Knights has been astounding. While the exact numbers are still being calculated, it is reported that the franchise has $100 million payroll that extends beyond the borders of the team members and its employees. The Vegas Golden Knights have had a trickle effect on the entire economy in Las Vegas. Surrounding businesses such as the MGM Resort and The Beer Park report soaring sales during NHL season.
It is reported that with the relocation of the Oakland Raiders and the building of the Las Vegas Stadium, the city will see an extra $602 million within the next two years. These numbers have the potential the change the narrative surrounding Las Vegas, turning it from a city for nightlife and entertainment into a sports mecca. The introduction of these new sports teams will not only will this bring in more visitors from around the globe, it is also guaranteed to attract new businesses.
The Vegas Golden Knights’ first season made history. In scoring their 84th point on February 1, 2018, the Vegas Golden Knights broke the record for the most points scored by an expansion team during an inaugural season. On March 31, they scored a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, making them the first expansion team since the 1926-27 New York Rangers to win their division their inaugural year.
In the first round, the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Los Angeles Kings in four straight games, making them the first team to sweep their first playoff series. In the second round, they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in a series of six games. In the Western Conference Finals, they came out on top of fives games against the Winnipeg Jets, propelling them into the Stanley Cup Finals.
Much of the Vegas Golden Knights’ success has come from an excellent team roster. General manager George McPhee, assistant Kelly McCrimmon, and a team of scouts prepared long in advance for the expansion draft by getting to know every player in the NHL.
James Neal came to the Vegas Golden Knights with a ten year career in the NHL having played with the Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Dallas Stars. In the three years preceding his transfer to the Golden Knights, he scored 77 goals and 59 assists on behalf of the Nashville Predators. In the playoffs alone, he scored 14 goals between 42 games. With a career total of 238 goals and 451 assists, Neal is a powerhouse for offense and scoring.
Since signing his first contract in 2013 with the Washington Capitals, defenseman Nate Schmidt has shown steady improvement. He saw more playing time each year with the Capitals, his speed and skill making him a well-rounded player and top defenseman for the Vegas Golden Knights.
A quality goaltender was another crucial box checked off the Golden Knights’ team player checklist with the addition of Marc-Andé Fleury. During his time playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Fleury greatly contributed to the team’s success. He was the top pick in the 2003 entry-draft, has played in two all-star games and won two Stanley Cups.
After an impressive first season, the Vegas Golden Knights are favored to win the Stanley Cup. In spite of all the team has accomplished this year, it will be business as usual when it comes to this year’s draft picks.
This year’s NHL draft will take place June 22-23 in Dallas. The Vegas Golden Knights already traded their first round pick to Detroit for Tomas Tatar, but will have seven picks between rounds two through six.