Don't bet against the house
|11/30/17 - By Ken Smyth -
As soon as the schedule was published, my wife and
I started planning for a trip to Las Vegas to see the Sharks take on the Golden
Knights. The holiday weekend Friday night looked like the perfect time, and
this being Vegas, accommodations were available. Would've been nice if the
Sharks had shown up, too, but that's getting ahead of the story.
Directly comparing the Golden Knights' expansion with the Sharks', the Knights
did almost everything right. Their rookie (Bill Foley), hired a top General
Manager (George McPhee) who hired a well-regarded NHL coach in Gord Gallant.
The Knights play in a modern arena in the center of a world-class entertainment
district. Gund squeezed the league to move up the Sharks expansion date to
1991, brought along his GM from Minnesota (Jack Ferriera) who's season record
with the North Stars was nothing special and hired Canadian college coach
Kingston had little NHL experience and was known
mostly for coaching lower level international teams. The Sharks played their
first two seasons in the moldy Cow Palace: an hour's drive away from their home
city in a neighborhood (then) of cheap motels and seedy liquor stores.
The Golden Knights received a generously stocked entry draft that included
numerous players with proven NHL talent and in the most productive years of
their careers. McPhee was able to swing some good deals to allow teams to keep
certain players in exchange for additional entry draft picks. The Sharks got a
weird expansion draft where first they picked from the North Stars' bottom
feeder contracts and then, with the Stars, picked from a thin list of players
from the other twenty teams.
The bona-fide scorer left in that group
was Guy Lafleur; 40 years old and already planning to retire. I expected the
Knights to be competitive, but challenging for first place in the Pacific
Division is insane.
Enough history, how was the game? The time was
moved up to 3 PM and the Sharks played the half of the game like they spent the
night off the strip drinking two-foot tall grind-joint margaritas. Looking at
the Golden Knights' home record, this seems to be a common thread as teams go
through the first time. Visitors might consider either flying in the afternoon
of the game or spending the night over the hill in Pahrump.
This is Vegas so there was actual entertainment
between periods and in the house (Penn Jillette plus the Blue Man Group).
Nashville, they're gunning for you. Also there to pep the crowd: cheerleaders,
two mascots, and a drum squad. It certainly beats Sharkie and Jon Root throwing
a few cheap t-shirts up into the crowd.
Some amazing referees' calls
(if they're not bribed, they're "comped") and a disallowed goal blunted a
Sharks comeback and a brain cramp by Brent Burns gave the Golden Knights an OT
The nuts and bolts of being there are simple. Ticketing via
StubHub is very painless and the smartphone QR code readers work splendidly.
T-Mobile Arena sits just off the Strip between parking garages for New York,
New York and Monte Carlo with five hotels within walking distance. Plus,
there's a tram up to Bellagio and a monorail across the street to anyplace in
town. Searching for minuses, the arena itself is more of a 8-10 thousand
concert venue with limited concessions and restrooms that got a bit stretched
by a capacity hockey crowd expecting service between periods. Still way better
than the Cow Palace, though.
Lots of teal all around, including
transplants that cheer for the home team on other nights. This will probably be
the case for a while whenever the Kings, Sharks, Ducks, or Avs come to town.
The Knights' website is playing up the "we're young guys, new in town" aspect
which will help to build some affinity with fans who themselves are recent
arrivals. The sports bar/beer garden for New York, New York ("Bierhaus") looks
like the postgame hangout and is just across the plaza.
Contact Ken at at email@example.com
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