Hockey team electrifies city, revolutionizes professional sports
A year ago February, alumnus Julian Castro, ‘17, and I ventured from the Central Valley to the Bay Area to cheer on one of our favorite professional sports teams, the Vegas Golden Knights, as they took on the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center. At the time, Vegas was a few months into their inaugural season, yet they sat in second for total points in all the NHL.
As Vegas marched into playoffs, they proved they meant to compete at the highest level after defeating the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks, and earned the title of Western Conference Champions in their first season of existence. The Knights fought gallantly in the Stanley Cup Final, but fell short to the Washington Capitals.
Last season, I wrote about two specific factors that contributed to this expansion team’s success: unity and mindset. Expansion teams acquire players in a draft where every existing NHL team protects a certain number of their top players, and the team picks from the rest. It follows that the players acquired are not the best of the best, but have room to prove themselves – and that is just what they did.
During their 2017-18 campaign, the Vegas Golden Knights bought into a team-first mentality that allowed them to flourish.
Now in their second season, I traveled to watch the Knights, who sit comfortably at 3rd in the Pacific Division, take on the similarly matched Columbus Blue Jackets at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. After experiencing the game and city, I recognize it is not just the players that bought into what the Knights are doing, but the city as well. Vegas is doing it different.
Vegas itself is a crazy show, and as the first true born-and-bred professional sports team in the city, the Knights have fully embraced this.
Entering the city, I mused as I spotted the Statue of Liberty at New York, New York wearing a massive Knights jersey. The majority of cars feature Knights stickers and more people than not were sporting their Golden gear.
The game itself was unlike any hockey match I have spectated, including a couple playoff games and a Stanley Cup Final contest. In an arena designed to fit 17,500 for hockey, 18,301 attended with thousands more in the plaza outside, all contributing to an ecstatic energy that started way before the start and lasted until the final whistle.
As I mentioned, Vegas is doing it different. From their rituals like screaming “NIGHT!” during the National Anthem (“Gave proof through the night…”) and their Game of Thrones like show before the first puck drop, to the random and frequent chants of “Go Knights, Go!”, it is more than a simple hockey game – it’s a show.
The community has caught on, and for a city that is known perpetually, with few exceptions, for the way it reliably separates people from their money, the Golden Knights allow for a shift of identity. The city had a hand in forming the team, but now the team is forming the city.
The Vegas Golden Knights are creating a positive bonding point for the community, rather than the more questionable activities the city is known for.
we hope so
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 9, 2018
Vegas star defenseman Nate Schmidt notices the energy in the arena at home. Schmidt believes the Knights respond to that energy and feed off it during the game.
“There’s a lot of energy in the room, that’s for sure,” Schmidt said. “There’s parts of the game you feel such an energy, especially when you’re on the bench and our guys were really feeding off of it. But tonight we didn’t have it, and that hasn’t been our mojo for the last year and a half. It felt great to be back and the arena was booming. It was a Saturday night in Vegas and you can’t really ask for more.”
Columbus Blue Jacket head coach John Tortorella led his team to a 4-3 win against the Knights at the T-Mobile Arena, Feb. 9.
“It is fantastic,” Tortorella said. “I am not crazy about the city and all the noise out there. This building, they do it right and they have a good team. That is a good team and our guys should feel good, they just beat a really good hockey club.”
Golden Knights alternate captain Pierre-Édouard Bellemare believes the energy in the arena is similar to a playoff atmosphere.
“It was very fun,” Bellemare said. “It’s like playoffs every time we play in front of those guys because they are cheering for us all the way until the end. There is no arena like here so it is fun to be back home.”
I believe this new “Vegas model” will affect professional sports for years to come. Pro teams will begin to shift and focus more on entertainment and exciting the fans.
Another major topic is the Golden Knights twitter. They have revolutionized twitter for major accounts by being informal and very interactive, all driven with humor. Since their first season, dozens of other sport’s teams twitter accounts have followed their example.
The Vegas Golden Knights are revolutionizing sports, and the Vegas itself is letting the world know they are a city beyond the strip.
I would like to give a huge thank you to both Paul Loeffler and Sage Sammons of the Vegas Golden Knights for the amazing opportunities they both allowed me.
The video below shows the game opener for the Las Vegas Golden Nights game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Feb. 9:
Check out Rurik’s previous article about the Vegas Golden Knights.
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