The Las Vegas Golden Knights are four wins away from being one of the greatest stories in sports. Yet, the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of hockey history (to paraphrase Spiro Agnew) continue to criticize the NHL’s newest franchise.
In their first season, the Golden Knights have become one of the most beloved teams in North America. And it’s understandable. This bunch of self-proclaimed misfits are as loveable as Disney characters. They’re a group of skating, slashing, body-checking fluffy bunnies. Even their goalie’s nickname is “Flower.”
While hockey aficionados flood Twitter with nuanced discussions of the expansion draft and hiss the word “bandwagon” through clenched missing teeth, many folks are tuning into hockey for the first time specifically because of the Golden Knights…and loving it!
As a Las Vegas resident, I can tell you hockey has gripped this town like nothing else in the city’s modern history. Move over Wayne Newton, Marc Andre Fleury is the new Mr. Las Vegas.
Welcome to Las Vegas
Vegas isn’t a “hockey town” in the traditional sense but many residents were born and raised in hockey towns before moving to the desert. I’m from Philly. I watched the Flyers win their first Stanley Cup in 1974, back when they were better known as the Broad Street Bullies. Most of my Vegas friends are from Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto and other cities with a storied NHL presence. Prior to the start of the season, most of us assumed the Knights would be our “second team”-- the team we root for in the here and now while our childhood teams remain number one in our hearts. For many Knights fans, this is clearly no longer the case.
The VGK’s (as we call them) have managed to unite a city with a transient population and given us a much-needed identity. Vegas may not be a hockey town, but hockey has made us a town.
The 1 October Shooting
After the horrific shooting on October 1, 2017, Vegas residents stood with their neighbors to give blood, mourn and pay their respects to the 58 who were lost. We treasured this newfound sense of community; it was the only bright spot in an unimaginable tragedy.
But the Golden Knights—through their team work, joy for the game and hilarious Twitter feed-- have managed to turn Lady Luck’s frown upside down. They gave us joy at a time when we felt despair. Through this team, we replaced our tears with cheers. The hashtag “Vegas Born” does not just apply to the birth of the team. In many way, the city of Vegas – the neighborhoods and not the tourist sector-- was born when the first puck dropped.
“Long-Suffering” Knights Fans
As I watched post-game interviews with fans on the local news, one teary-eyed, smiling woman said, “The Knights are a family. We are all a family.” Just like a family, we may all start annoying each other in a few years. But, for now, we still want to get together on game days.
People outside of Las Vegas have embraced this team because sports and non-sports fans love an underdog. The Knights quick style of play and overall enthusiasm have made hockey fans take interest in the sport.
To the citizens of Vegas, the current Golden Knights team will forever remain in our hearts regardless of what the future holds.
If the Knights win the Stanley Cup it will go down in hockey history as the new “Miracle on Ice.” But the real legacy of the Knights will be the miracle they performed in the desert.
As we say in Vegas, “Go, Knights, Go!”