Anyone who’s ever been to Las Vegas knows that city is not kind to our sleep schedules. Why wake up early when the buffets are open all day? Why go to bed at a reasonable hour when the penny slots are revved up 24/7?
One of the few things in the desert gambling oasis that sticks to a normal schedule is the NHL. While clubs are filled at all hours of the day, Vegas Golden Knights games begin at the regular times of 7:00 for night puck drops. That leaves plenty of time to hit the blackjack tables after the game.
That wasn’t always the case for hockey in Vegas. The Las Vegas Wranglers, the city’s minor league predecessor to the Golden Knights, held one of hockey’s most interesting traditions. Once a year they would have one of their regular season games start at midnight. The tradition was well embraced by a city whose fans work around the clock when most of the rest of the world is asleep.
The Wranglers are gone, but with an NHL team in town, should the midnight hockey tradition continue? As much as night owls would love to see it, that just won’t happen. There’s a variety of reasons the Golden Knights have to stick to a normal game time.
The Las Vegas Wranglers used to hold a minor league hockey game at midnight in Vegas. Should the Golden Knights do the same?
Most important is that a midnight game just wouldn’t work with broadcasting. Having a game that late would cause plenty of problems for on-air scheduling, getting a broadcast ready, and other television logistics. Those problems would become even worse if the “midnight game” was a game that was to be nationally broadcasted. It’s hard to imagine hockey fans on the east coast waiting up until 3:00 am their time to tune in.
Fewer people tuning in translated to terrible ratings. Even if it’s one game, that could lead to concerns on the business side of things. Not to mention league personnel would have to be up at unreasonably late times to work the games. The NHL situation room in Toronto would need to have extra coffee on hand.
Broadcasting rights is something minor league teams don’t have to worry about to the level of their NHL counterparts. That immediately eliminated a lot of the intangibles that prohibit such a unique game in the NHL. Although the ECHL (the league the Wranglers were in) and the team and arena still had to worry about staffing issues for the later than normal game.
Before anyone asks, “But would fans show up?” remember that this is Vegas. Demand might even be higher due to puck drop being in tune with the city’s circadian rhythm. If people and tourists will stay in an overpriced club until 4:00 am, there’s no reason to think the Golden Knights faithful wouldn’t want to stay up late as well.
It was one of hockey’s most unique promotions. What made it great was how well it fit into the community. Teams like the Hershey Bears would never attempt such a thing, although they might do something even crazier.
The Golden Knights have incorporated distinctly Vegas things in their game presentation, but it might be better if puck drop stays the same time as sunset.