When it comes to thinking about Las Vegas, the typical thoughts involve gambling, large shows, and the strip. While sports have been a part of Las Vegas for many years, it seems that the sports that held their place in Las Vegas were fighting sports like mixed martial arts or boxing. In the last couple of years, a new sport has entered the scene: hockey.
The Golden Knights were created in 2017 and immediately made their place on the Las Vegas scene. Once established, it was clear that the Golden Knights had already begun to impact the economy of Las Vegas for the better.
Even though the Las Vegas Golden Knights were not formed until 2017, the presence of hockey in Las Vegas was already established. It might be surprising to have hockey in such a hot, desert city, but they did host an outdoor game in 1991. The New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings brought their hockey states to Sin City’s Caesars Palace for an exhibition. Since then, the Kings organized Frozen Fury, which was before other NHL preseason games.
In 2014, an indoor arena was built along the Las Vegas strip. After a couple of years, the NHL gave the green light to form a team in 2016, after a unanimous vote, approving a team to be created for the 2017-2018 season. Enter the Golden Knights.
Building the Team
Since the Golden Knights were the first new NHL team in 17 years, the NHL created the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft to build the team. Essentially, the team could pick up players from all of the other teams in the NHL to help fill the roster. The other teams could protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender from being included in the drafting process. The team that was created was considered to be made up of mid-level pro players, with all of the other teams protecting their MVPs from the draft.
With the team built, the Golden Knights made their debut on October 6, 2017, winning their first game against the Dallas Starts. The first home game was against the Arizona Coyotes, which they also won, setting them on a path of NHL stardom.
The 2017-2018 Season
Not only did the Golden Knights win their first two games, but they did not stop winning. In their first year, the Golden Knights managed to win in their divisions, make it all of the way to the playoffs, and defeated the Los Angeles Kings during the first-round series. In the end, they stunned everyone by becoming a real contender for the Stanley Cup in their very first year playing.
Now, let’s take a look at what kind of impact this all had on Las Vegas itself. Of course Las Vegas is a popular destination for many. There are a lot of things to do and to check out. But, the city has never really drawn fans of professional team sports before. This was an entirely new demographic to visit Las Vegas, but now they were coming. Within the 31 home games of their first season, there was an average of 17,969 fans attending each game. That put the arena over its capacity, forcing viewers to stand in the aisles to be able to get a glimpse of the action.
Before the 2017 season had even started, the Golden Knights sold out of their 12,500 season tickets. This was before anyone knew how well they would succeed. There was even a waiting list to be able to purchase season tickets if anything should change. Beyond that, the merchandise sold for the Golden Knights became the fourth most-sold merchandise in the NHL.
Since the Golden Knights garnered so much attention their first year, the team was well-established in Las Vegas’s strip. This level of attention is making sports fans pay more attention to Las Vegas than ever before. The Golden Knights succeeded in legitimizing professional sports in Las Vegas, opening more opportunities for the city to try its hands at other sports in the future.
Regardless, the Golden Knights have brought in more visitors to the city, boosted the economy of the strip, and set Vegas on a new avenue of profit.