Las Vegas waited so long for a major league sports team that the Las Vegas Golden Knights would have had plenty of fans here no matter how their first season went. I don't think any of us locals imagined that our new team would blow away the competition and end up in the Stanley Cup Finals their first year, so we're eating up every bit of their success!
Last June, as in previous years I worked as a stand in on the NHL Awards, this time for NHL correspondent Kathryn Tappen. I participated in the rehearsal of the NHL Expansion Draft in her place. The Draft was to be televised live during the awards show. Here were all these draft picks from other NHL teams coming up on the board. All of these guys were about to be part of something completely new, a team, OUR team, named the Las Vegas Golden Knights. I wondered how these players felt, were they excited or wary of this new chapter in their careers? Of course I didn't wonder for long as now they're having the season of a lifetime!
|Me with Cathy, Beth, & Samantha, three generations of Knights fans!|
One of the things I noticed early on was the way the Golden Knights embedded themselves in our community. And I don't just mean after the Route 91 tragedy. Even before that they were having open practices at their practice facility City National Arena, and holding some fan and season ticket holder events around town. The owners of the team must have known that the people of Las Vegas needed to feel like a part of this team and the players needed our support in return for the team to thrive.
Yesterday morning, the day of the first Stanley Cup Finals, the Golden Knights tweeted as they sometimes do, a surprise open practice for up to 600 people. My husband and I jumped in the car and checked it out as we live close by. The place was full of fans, a DJ playing fun beats and the Arsenal (the VGK apparel shop) was packed with people suiting up for the finals. I chatted with fans like Cathy, Beth and Samantha, a Grandmother, Mother and Daughter representing three generations enjoying the morning together, bonding all season over their love of the Golden Knights.
Last September we also attended an open practice. Back then there was a feeling of excitement but also a bit of uncertainty. Las Vegas had wanted major league sports for so long, but how would it all work out? Well now we know. We know the feeling that other cities have had for decades. The excitement that a pro sports team can bring to a town and the good times and friendships its presence helps create. Whatever happens in the rest of the Stanley Cup Finals, Las Vegas is forever changed for the better.