The Golden Knights are bringing another hockey team to Vegas, this time of the minor league variety. Is it a good idea to double down on some desert hockey?
With the arrival of the Vegas Golden Knights, Las Vegas has become a hockey-crazed town, just like absolutely nobody expected. In fact, Vegas has become one of America’s best hockey cities. They may lack the pomp, circumstance, and tradition of the Original Six, but they more than make up for it with in arena showgirls and Cirque Du Solei.
The Knights have decided to double down on its hockey bets by buying an AHL team and moving it to Vegas. They have bought, and are relocating, the San Antonio Rampage to the Las Vegas/Henderson Nevada area. The move will be ready for the 2020-2021 AHL season, and the team will play in the Orleans Arena.
The Orleans Arena was the home of Vegas’s last minor league hockey team, the Las Vegas Wranglers. Problems with that arena led to the franchise ceasing operations. The team plans to build an AHL specific arena in the future.
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Was this really the right move for the Golden Knights? Sure the franchise wants its prospects playing closer to the big league club instead of in the far off land of Chicago (the team’s previous AHL affiliate was the Chicago Wolves) but is Vegas ready for AHL hockey?
Vegas has become a hockey-crazed town, but they’re crazed fans of the Golden Knights. The region has a long minor league hockey history, but this is the first time there will be more than one hockey team sharing the city.
With hockey still in infancy in Vegas, the addition of a second team might over saturate the market. AHL teams sharing the market with their NHL counterparts is nothing new. The Toronto markets have long shared the Toronto market with the Maple Leafs and found success, as have the Manitoba Moose and Winnipeg Jets.
Stateside is a completely different story, however. The San Jose Sharks moved their AHL affiliate to San Jose as well to be San Jose Barracuda. They rank fourth to last in AHL attendance.
The Vegas Golden Knights have done a great job of community outreach, and minor league teams are a great way to continue doing so. The biggest question is, does Vegas really need another hockey team?
There are other cities in Nevada large enough to support a minor league team that are only a stone’s throw (short plane ride) from Vegas while establishing the Golden Knights a state-wide brand.
Maybe put the minor league team in the state’s capital of Carson City, or Reno, Nevada? The Arizona Coyotes did something similar by having their main AHL affiliate be the Tucson Roadrunners.
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If Vegas welcomes their new AHL team like they welcomed the Golden Knights, the move will be a wild success. Still a few years after the Golden Knights shocked everyone with sellout crowds and a trip to the Stanley Cup finals there are still questions about hockey in the region. Vegas may be a hockey town, but that town may not be big enough for the two of them.