The Vegas Golden Knights have played one complete NHL regular season and are already making the franchise’s first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. They’ve built a brand out in the desert of Nevada. Historically, expansion teams in American sports struggle in their opening years like the Toronto Raptors, Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies, and Houston Texans. However, the Golden Knights have broken the curse.
In the 2017-2018 NHL season, their inaugural season, the Golden Knights boasted an astonishing 51 wins, securing the top place in the Pacific Division, and a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Currently, they are up 1-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Washington Capitals. This situation begs a few major questions. How did the Vegas Golden Knights accomplish so much in their first season of NHL play? And what are the implications of their success?
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2017 NHL Expansion Draft
In the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights were given the opportunity to assemble a team of 30 players. They were able to pick one player from each of the other 30 NHL teams. The other teams were even allowed to restrict players from being poached to ensure the Golden Knights wouldn’t quickly obtain an All-Star roster. The previous NHL Expansion Draft, in 2000, to build the rosters of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild was structured a little differently. The Atlanta Thrashers’ and Nashville Predators’ were protected because they had recently entered the league as expansion teams. The NHL was careful not to add too many teams too quickly. The Atlanta Thrashers fell victim to poor management and too many consecutive disappointing seasons. Thus they were sold and relocated, rebranded as the Winnipeg Jets. Adding just one expansion team seemed like the better move to avoid a similar situation to what happened with the Atlanta Thrashers. Obviously, Vegas seems to be a good home for the Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights brilliantly drafted players like Marc-Andre Fleury, the former goaltender from defending Stanley Cup Champions, Pittsburgh Penguins who was also the 1st overall selection in the 2003 NHL Draft. Knights GM, George McPhee, has been accredited with much of their success because of the successful expansion draft, regular draft, and offseason trades. Currently, McPhee is a finalist for the NHL’s General Manager of the Year Award.
Impact on Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a global tourism location with people from all over the world come to gamble and see the shows in Las Vegas. One major criticism of the city’s attractions is that the city is not family friendly. To gamble, you need to be at least 21 years old and many of the performances are late at night. A sports team would be the perfect way to bring families into the city. In addition, having an NHL team could really bring out the sports culture in the people from Las Vegas. Leagues like the MLS who are looking to expand in the coming years might introduce Las Vegas as a possible location for a team. Overall, a major sports team is a great source of revenue for the city and right now, Las Vegas is proving to be an untapped market in the professional sports world.
Growth of the NHL and Hockey
In their respective 2016-2017 seasons, the NHL recorded a lower annual revenue than the NFL, MLB, NBA and English Premier League. The introduction of a successful new team will bring money into the NHL so they can hopefully compete with the world’s top professional sports leagues. Because Vegas is such a large tourist spot, the NHL can grow the sport of hockey globally. There can be established fan bases all around the US, Canada, and the rest of the world. Several years down the line, because of this new exposure brought to the NHL because of the success of the Golden Knights, the NHL might be able to base a team or have select games in international cities like Mexico City or London. The NBA and NFL have had games in foreign cities and in the NFL there have been talks of starting a London franchise. The Vegas Golden Knights could very well be the starting point to growing ice hockey into a global sport.
If you’re liking what you see the Golden Knights do on the ice and are looking for a group of fans to watch next season or the rest of the Stanley Cup Finals with use FanWide to find game watch parties. Also, let FanWide know about your Vegas Golden Knights fan club so we can help grow the fan club by posting your game watch parties on our website. Last, you can click here to find existing Golden Knights game watch parties in your area.