The Vegas Golden Knights and Their Special Bond With The Las Vegas Community.
The prospect of major league sports has always excited the people of Las Vegas; so when the NHL came knocking on the City's door, it had the residents excited. Having lived here my whole life I can attest to the childlike giddiness the city was experiencing with the talks of expansion to Las Vegas.
To test the viability of a professional hockey team in Las Vegas, the NHL in 2015 allowed future owner, Bill Foley, to hold a ticket drive to see if it would reach a goal of 10,000 deposits. It only took a day and a half to reach 5,000 deposits and only took about two months to reach its goal of 10,000.
With the viability of an NHL team in Las Vegas having been proven, the bid by Bill Foley was approved by the NHL. With this, Foley began filling out the front office positions in the organization with reputable and experienced individuals such as former General manager of the Washington Capitals, George McPhee. In Late 2016, the name, crest, and jerseys were revealed to the public.
On June 21, 2017, the expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights took place. This is the most pivotal moment for the team up to this point, the success of the franchise depends on how well they select their team. At the time, many picks that General Manager George McPhee made at the draft left several pundits and NHL personalities scratching their heads. But to a majority of the Las Vegas fanbase it did not really matter to them who they got, it was a matter of finally having a major league sports team.
In regards to the picks, several articles were written at the time talking about how Vegas was going to perform horribly in the 2017-2018 season.
There are several examples of this including an article written by Barry Petchesky on Deadspin.com titled, "Wow the Golden Knights Are Going To Be Bad." In this article Petchesky writes about how the Vegas Golden Knights should of selected the best available players and that he does not believe the organization did so. Also saying that the roster is likely to get worse due to the team most likely trading away its better players. He went as far to say that "-this team isn't going to have more than a dozen regulation wins."
Several other media personalities made similar claims as well, such as the popular YouTube sports channel, UrinatingTree. He was very clear in his opinion of the team the Golden Knights put together, stating, "As for the Knights themselves, dear god they're looking to be pretty awful next year."
Fast forward to October 1, 2017, and the Vegas Golden Knights had played a preseason game against the San Jose Sharks. On that same night, automatic gunfire could be heard on the Las Vegas Strip. A gunman positioned on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay opened fire on the Route 91 country music concert, killing 58 and wounded 412. The city suffered greatly because of this tragedy, many people knew victims or people that were at the concert or on the strip itself at the time.
The Golden Knights in response to the shooting instantly took action in showing its support for the community, by showing up to blood drives as well as making a donation of $1 million to the LV police to help the victims of the shooting. They also retired the number 58 to represent the 58 people that were lost in the shooting; as well as attempt to reach out to the victims, the families that lost their loved ones, and the first responders. After all they did for the Community, they solidified their bond to the people of Las Vegas, and gave the whole city a cause to root for.
The Golden Knights then proceeded finish the season first in the Pacific division, win the Western Conference, and make it to the Stanley Cup finals. They became the most successful expansion team in the history of major league sports. Though they did not win the cup in 2017, they gave the city of Las Vegas an avenue for healing, a central cause we could all get behind, and the pride of proving everyone wrong. They continue to be source of joy for the city of Las Vegas, though they have irked many who are fans of other NHL teams.
These individuals like to claim that the Golden Knights were gifted a championship caliber team from the get go, but that is just simply not the case. The only real standout player that was selected in the expansion draft was 3 time Stanley Cup Champion, Marc-Andre Fleury. But even with Fleury, many were saying that he was in the latter half of his career and was only considered as a backup quality goaltender with his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It was unexpected performances from outcasts and misfits that carried this team to the finals, not the NHL gifting them a championship quality roster.
At the end of the day, it does not matter whether the Golden Knights had won the cup or lost in the first round of the playoffs. The bond they had built with the city and its community would not change, they helped the city of Las Vegas heal from a tragedy that shook the city to its core.
They represent so much more to Las Vegas than just a hockey team; they are our neighbors and our heroes. Our Golden Misfits.