It is the offseason so let’s dispel some myths about the Vegas Golden Knights
What the Vegas Golden Knights have done in their short history is nothing short of impressive. In their four years of existence, they’ve made the Stanley Cup Final once and been to the Conference Finals (okay, it’s called something different this year, but you get my point) three times. The only bad mark on their record was an opening round defeat in seven games to the San Jose Sharks in 2019.
If you are a Golden Knights fan, you love to see it. If you aren’t a Vegas Golden Knights fan, you are probably tired of seeing them succeed. I’ve seen people at both ends of the equation and let me tell you, there’s a few misconceptions about the Vegas Golden Knights. Let’s clear those up.
Dispelling some myths about the Vegas Golden Knights
The Expansion Draft Was Rigged
By far this is the most common complaint about the Vegas franchise. There is an ounce of truth to this. The 2017 NHL Expansion Draft was much more generous to the Golden Knights than Expansion Drafts of the past. However, saying that the process was “rigged” in their favor to create immediate success is an incredible overstatement.
There are a few notable players Vegas selected in the 2017 Expansion Draft that former Expansion Drafts wouldn’t have had players of that caliber. Look at the likes of Jonathan Marchessault, David Perron and James Neal, not to mention future Hall of Famer goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Then again, remember the team’s leading scorer that year and breakout star was William Karlsson.
In the season before going to Vegas, Karlsson had six goals and 25 points for the Columbus Blue Jackets. That first year in Vegas, he had 43 goals and 78 points, so you do have to give the front office some credit for taking chances on players who had previously struggled or not lived up to their potential.
You might think “well he had a bigger role with Vegas”. That’s true in the fact he assumed a larger role, but he played in pretty much the same amount of games (81 with the Columbus Blue Jackets versus 82 with the Golden Knights). At what point does Vegas get credit for scouting players nobody would have paid attention to in the past? They definitely deserve some credit for that.
Where Did All Their Fans Come From?
People are definitely surprised with the amount of fan support the Golden Knights have. In their defense, it was easy to expect less when a similar desert dwelling hockey team such as the Arizona Coyotes have been struggling to bring in fans for what seems like forever.
Vegas fans come out in huge numbers, and they seemingly have a fan base that reaches far outside of Nevada. That’s mostly because of three key reasons.
Firstly, Vegas has a long history of minor league hockey in the area. The Golden Knights were far from the first time Vegas residents saw a team hit the ice, with the likes of the Las Vegas Thunder and the Las Vegas Wranglers having some success in Sin City.
The NHL took notice for a while. The first ever outdoor NHL game was the infamous Wayne Gretzky Los Angeles Kings versus New York Rangers preseason game in the Caesars parking lot. There were rumblings the Hartford Whalers considered Las Vegas as a relocation destination before settling on Carolina to become the Carolina Hurricanes.
One of the very first Golden Knights Deryk Engelland played minor league hockey in Las Vegas and ended up making the area his full time home, and he has taken up a front office role in the organization in the wake of retiring from the NHL.
Secondly, Las Vegas wanted a major league team badly. They didn’t care what sport, they just wanted a team after years of trying and being avoided by all the major leagues. When a Marc Andre-Fleury signed jersey showed up on the television show Pawn Stars, Rich Harrison made the city’s feeling and appreciation for the team known.
Lastly, people like Las Vegas. They were fans of the city first, and then the hockey team. Think of what comes to mind when you think of Sin City for a second. Things like excitement, luxury, and fun all come to mind. We all have this romanticized image of Las Vegas, and not only do the Golden Knights share that image, they embrace it.
I’ve heard from many people who all say the same thing. They were frequent visitors to Las Vegas who never watched hockey before. They loved Vegas so much that when the Golden Knights came to town, they decided to give hockey a try and have become huge hockey fans ever since. These people reach from all across the country. There was a newspaper article of a former Atlanta Thrashers fan from Georgia who adopted the Golden Knights because of his love for the city of Vegas. These people aren’t band wagoners; they just love Las Vegas and everything about it. Now that includes NHL hockey.