The Vegas Golden Knights weren’t expected to make much noise in their first NHL season. But by the time 2018 rolled around, it was clear that Las Vegas’ first major league professional sports team was defying expectations in a big way, taking the city on a magical run that ended in a trip to the Stanley Cup.
There’s no doubt that the Golden Knights turned Las Vegas into a sports town in 2018, erasing any questions as to whether Sin City could embrace a hometown team. Now, only one question remains: can they create even more magic in 2019?
The story of the Golden Knights’ assent to becoming the hottest ticket in Las Vegas starts in 2017, when the team was set to host its first home game just days after the Oct. 1 mass shooting that resulted in 58 deaths and more than 800 injuries. In an emotional tribute to the victims and the city, the Golden Knights established themselves as an integral part of the Vegas community even before they ever took the ice.
“To the families and friends of the victims, know that we’ll do everything that we can to help you and our city heal,” defenseman Deryk Engelland, a Las Vegas native, told fans before the game. “We are Vegas Strong.”
While it would be trite to pretend a sports team’s results could completely heal a city, there’s no doubt that the Golden Knights truly did everything they could to make a difference for the community.
The team quickly rose to the top of the NHL standings, shocking both fans and oddsmakers alike. While the team started at 300/1 or worse to win the Stanley Cup before the season started at most sportsbooks, it quickly became apparent that the Golden Knights were a real contender, breaking the record for wins by an expansion team and proving to be especially difficult to beat in their home arena.
By the time the playoffs came around, Vegas was seen as one of the Stanley Cup favorites. They mowed down their competition in the Western Conference before entering the Stanley Cup Final as a favorite over the Washington Capitals. Unfortunately, the dream season ended with a return to reality: the Capitals defeated the Golden Knights in just five games to win the first Stanley Cup in the history of their own franchise.
Vegas’s Second Act
Any team has the potential to put together one shocking season. But while the Golden Knights may have been the darlings of the NHL in their inaugural season, is it possible that they could raise the bar again in their second year in the league?
So far, the results have been mixed. The Golden Knights sit firmly in the middle of the Western Conference standings, fighting for one of the lower playoff positions. According to William Hill, the Golden Knights are 40/1 to win the Stanley Cup this season – hardly the kind of odds that suggest they’d need a miracle to contend again, but also a sign that they’ve yet to recapture the magic they enjoyed the first time around.
Regardless of what the Golden Knights manage to do this season, though, one thing is for sure: they’ve ensured that the city of Las Vegas will rally behind their NHL franchise for years to come. From placing a jersey on Lady Liberty to the ever-present sight of Golden Knights games on televisions in the city’s many sportsbooks, it’s clear that Las Vegas became a hockey town in 2018.