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Introducing The Vegas Junior Golden Knights

Say hello to the next generation of SinBin.vegas readers, I mean, Golden Knights fans.

The Vegas Golden Knights announced today, April 4, that the team has formed a partnership with the Nevada Storm to create a new youth hockey travel program, the Vegas Junior Golden Knights. The Vegas Junior Golden Knights program will initially feature teams from the mite level through midget and will utilize all three city rinks, including the Golden Knights practice facility, the Las Vegas Ice Center and the SoBe Ice Arena. All existing Nevada Storm teams will be re-branded under the Vegas Junior Golden Knights name. -Press Release

The partnership connects the team with the community more than ever. Now, children in Southern Nevada will have an easier chance to play the game, and wear VGK colors while doing it. Hockey participation will undoubtedly grow in Las Vegas as more kids will want to play like their favorite Knight. We discussed last summer how the Kings and Ducks have done a great job developing their youth and HS leagues. Now Southern California has thousands of kids choosing to skate over other sports. For two decades the Golden State has had constant growth in youth hockey participation.

Courtesy of NHLtoSeattle.com (https://nhltoseattle.com/2016/06/20/usa-hockey-numbers-are-up/)

Hockey participation is up all across the nation and California consistently leads in player growth. It currently ranks #7 in the US for youth or high school programs. Brad Sholl, who was announced as the GM of the Golden Knights new practice facility was very close to Southern California’s youth hockey evolution.

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Drone Footage Of Practice Facility

The Practice Facility in Downtown Summerlin is continuing it’s almost ridiculous pace and now appears as if it might actually be operational ahead of schedule.

Friend of the site and Las Vegas sports broadcasting legend Ron Futrell and his team at Avisight sent the drone up over the facility and came back with some pretty sweet images.

If you missed my exclusive (at the time) (now they seem to be letting all the other media folks in, another in the long line of people copying us months later and then saying on TV they were first, so then people actually think they were first, which they weren’t, obviously. Sorry. It bugs me.) tour of the practice facility, it’s here.

This is the first we’ve seen it with the final roofing structure beginning to take shape. The plan still is to have the place open, at least a portion of it, in mid August in time for the rookie training camp.

I’d expect it to be skate-able for the public in October or so, and the restaurant will likely be my go-to spot for pizza and Foley Pinot Noir in early 2017.

Practice Facility Construction Pictures – January 31, 2016

The only enemy of the Golden Knights is time. They have 136 days to prepare for the Expansion Draft, 142 to the Entry Draft, and something like 250 days from Opening Night.

But there’s one clock that feels like it’s ticking just a bit faster than the rest. It’s the one in Downtown Summerlin where the practice facility, and the eventual home of just about everything but games, is being built in a hurry. The facility broke ground in October with a drop dead opening date of late August to be ready for the team’s first training camp.

I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical about the speed in which they planned to put up what’s going to be an absolutely gorgeous 120,000 square foot hockey wonderland. But after my trip out there yesterday, I’m convinced Murray Craven and his round the clock construction team will have this baby up in no time.

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Don’t Get Too Pumped About The Trade Deadline

There’s no debate in the minds of everyone who follows the sport of hockey closely that this trade deadline is going to be a busy one. Every one of the Original 30 (yeah, that’s what I’m calling them from now on) understand they are in line to lose one player to the Expansion Draft in June, and they are going to want to utilize the deadline to begin their preparations.

However, the powers that be in Las Vegas aren’t so sure the deadline has quite the significance many, including myself, have made it out to have.

The deadline isn’t the deadline. After the deadline teams can still make trades. Once they are out of the playoffs they are free to move players around. So, wouldn’t it be great if on trade deadline day that’s when the rosters froze, yes boy would it ever. The trade deadline is more relevant for other teams in the league because they’re going to have to make their proper moves to get ready for the expansion draft because that’s gonna be their first step. But after the trade deadline to the middle of June, they still have the opportunity to move guys. -Murray Craven, Senior VP

That’s how Muz characterized it on the Vegas Hockey Hotline, and GM George McPhee didn’t sound like he was all that excited about the deadline either during his appearance on the same show last week.

**Craven interview begins at 1:19:00 of the first link, McPhee at 1:14:45 of the second**

We don’t know what’s going to happen at this trade deadline. I’d imagine some teams will reach out to us, but there will be lots of activity amongst the teams, but what it produces is anyone’s guess. I would imagine the teams that are pushing to win, some of them are going to reach out to us because they would like to put some things in place with us. If they are going to be adding players they wouldn’t mind knowing what we are up to and what we would like to do with them before they make those moves. -George McPhee, GM

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AHL Affiliate In Chicago? LVRJ Reports Discussions

According to Steve Carp at the RJ, the Vegas Golden Knights are in discussions to lock in the Chicago Wolves as their AHL affiliate.

The Wolves are currently affiliated with the St. Louis Blues, but their deal with the NHL club expiries at the end of this season. The Creator offered a quick “no comment” to the RJ and the Chicago Wolves released this statement.

We have no comment on that rumor. We are affiliated with St. Louis and happy. -Lindsey Willhite, Chicago Wolves spokesman

Not that happy though, as St. Louis has been consistently linked to a project in Kansas City headed up by Lamar Hunt Jr., son of the NFL’s Chiefs founder, Lamar Hunt. There have also been disagreements between the Wolves organization and the Blues over coaching decisions and the handing of a few Blues owned players. Since the Wolves are privately owned, they have the final say, not the NHL parent club.

Sources tell NHL.com’s Lou Korac that the move to KC is “a done deal,” however that report was denied the day after it was reported.

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AHL/ECHL Affiliate News Roundup

The location of the Vegas Golden Knight AHL and ECHL affiliates is probably the next big piece of news on the horizon.

Back in August Murray Craven, joining the SinBin.vegas Podcast, identified Christmas as the target date to unveil the details on the Golden Knights’ minor league affiliations. Craven recently confirmed via email it will more likely come in January, and George McPhee agreed.

But as much as McPhee accomplished this summer, he still has additional off-ice tasks that have yet to be accomplished. He hopes to knock two of these off his list in the weeks just after the New Year, in January. “We’re going to be working on a couple of bigger items for our organization,” McPhee said. “We’ll be trying to get our physician group finalized, and working on an AHL affiliate opportunity.” -Dan Marrazza, VegasGoldenKnights.com

As for the AHL, The Creator mentioned on multiple occasions that the team will be an existing franchise. He also does not plan on owning the AHL franchise, at least for now.

McPhee’s plan isn’t to have many players at the AHL level anyway.

Most of our prospects will still be at the junior and college level, so there’s really no need to fill out an entire team. We’ll have six or eight guys that we can call up if we get banged up. But we’ll share for a couple years and then we’ll hone in on a place and see if we can have our own club. –George McPhee to NHL.com

Binghamton, NY, the former affiliate for the Ottawa Senators recently lost the team to Belleville, Ontario. The owner in Binghamton was quoted after losing the team saying “there will be an AHL team in Binghamton in 17-18.” Craven denied any involvement when we wrote about this in October, but it absolutely remains a possibility either via Vegas using Binghamton or an affiliation swap with another existing team.

Another organization that may make sense based on being under current ownership and not being affiliated is the Fort Wayne Komets (Indiana). They are the only team in either the ECHL or AHL who is currently unaffiliated.

As for the ECHL, Vegas is almost certainly going to jump on board with another team. Reno has been positioning itself recently to be the future home of an ECHL affiliate for Las Vegas, but they will not have anything in place by the time next season rolls around.

That’s all we’ve got. See ya in 2017 AHL/ECHL!

Team Holds Groundbreaking Ceremony For Practice Facility

There’s nothing we love more than a good photo op! And that’s exactly what we got at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the brand new NHL practice facility being built in Downtown Summerlin right across the street from the Red Rock Casino.

Look at the shovels! The smiles! The use of exclamation points in this article thus far!img_4047

Can you tell we hate these types of things yet?

Alright, enough sarcasm for one post, let’s go back over how amazing this practice facility is going to be for the Las Vegas community, cause that’s no joke. The building will house two full size sheets of ice which will be used in-season by the Something Knights for just a few hours during the day. The rest of the time the rinks will be open for community use.

It’ll also have a fully functional restaurant overlooking the ice where fans will have the opportunity to dine during practice. The facility will house the entire organizations offices and will serve as the team’s official home when they aren’t playing games at T-Mobile Arena.

Senior VP, Murray Craven, the guy in charge, says the project should take around 42 weeks with construction crews working day and night to assure it will get done by training camp in September of next year.

Ok, now some pictures! (And more exclamation points!)

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Senators Moving AHL Team, Opens Door For Binghamton, NY

The Ottawa Senators AHL affiliate has been the Binghamton Senators or the B-Sens since 2002, but the franchise was recently purchased by Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk and will be moved to Belleville, Ontario. The AHL team will stay in Binghamton until the conclusion of the 2016-17 season.

So what does that mean for Vegas? Well, quite simple, Binghamton, New York, which has had an AHL organization for the last 14 years, is in need of a new parent club. They have a nearly 7,000 seat arena and an organization who claim to be actively seeking a solution for the 2017-18 season. That season just so happens to be the first for the Las Vegas Something Knights.

I don’t want to say something that’s construed in violation of some non-disclosure agreement or one of them that’s out there. The only thing guess I can really emphasize is that I can’t tell you who it is, but there will be an American League team in Binghamton in 2017-18 and quite a few years after that. –Tom Mitchell, Binghamton Senators, Executive VP of Operations

Attendance wise they are near the bottom of the AHL, seeing about 3,500 fans per game, but they have the infrastructure Las Vegas may just be looking for.

Of course, Binghamton, New York (2,450 miles from LV) is not the ideal location to set up shop, but it could simply be a temporary fix until The Creator is ready to purchase an AHL team of his own.

The Creator is still paying off his $500 million to the NHL, so it’s completely understandable that he’s not quite ready to pull the trigger on an AHL team as well.

Other AHL teams moving for 17-18 are the St. Johns IceCaps (Canadiens) who are moving to Laval and the Springfield, Massachusetts Falcons (Coyotes) moving to Tuscon.

It’s been widely speculated that if Las Vegas opts for a new franchise it would be placed in Salt Lake City, Reno or Fresno. Senior VP Murray Craven, who is in charge of the AHL and ECHL affiliates denied any involvement with Binghamton when we asked for this article. Last month he said they expect to be able to announce the AHL affiliate by Christmas.

Binghamton may not be the perfect scenario for 2017-18, but it would make sense for the short-term. Mitchell’s comment of “and quite a few years after that,” may indicate that it’s not Las Vegas, but rest assured, the situation in Binghamton will most likely have an impact on what happens here, whether they are the affiliate or they are the new home for a moved team Vegas takes over.

And just remember, you heard it here first… unless you read this article that gave us the idea.

Erin Ginnell, Former Top Scout With Florida Hired As Scout In Vegas

The man who was referred to as the top amateur scout during the time the Florida Panthers selected Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck, Mike Matheson, just to name a few, is now headed to Las Vegas.

From Florida Panthers Media Guide

From Florida Panthers Media Guide

Erin Ginnell, who was with the Panthers from 2003 to 2015 has joined George McPhee’s rapidly growing scouting staff. Ginnell was let go from the Panthers organization when Dale Tallon was removed as GM in Florida and “promoted” to President of Hockey Operations.

The move was fueled by the organization’s desire to be more mathematically and analytically focused. Tallon moved “up,” Tom Rowe became GM, and Ginnell, Head of Amateur Scouting Scott Luce, and Director of Hockey Operations Mike Dixon were all let go. This indicates Ginnell did not fit the analytical approach the Panthers were looking for, but the results speak for themselves, so their trash becomes our treasure.

There’s also a pretty strong connection to Murray Craven with Ginnell. He was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada in 1968, four years before Craven. Also born in Medicine Hat was Ginnell’s brother Dan, who is currently a scout with the St. Louis Blues. Medicine Hat is a town of just about 70,000 in 2016, so odds are the Ginnell and Craven families are pretty familiar.

Ginnell becomes the fourth member of the organization whose primary title is as a scout. (Mike Levine, Bruno Campese, David Conte)

Las Vegas Will Have AHL Affiliate By Christmas, Share ECHL Team

Now that Murray Craven is on the staff for real we are starting to get a little more clarity on how the minor league system will look for the Las Vegas franchise.

The AHL affiliate will be announced relatively soon.

We’ll know by Christmas where we are going to be. It’s a process, it’s a little bit tricky. The AHL is such a good league now, probably the second best league in the world. It’s such a big part of what teams are now. -Murray Craven

Where? That’s still yet to be seen. The leading candidates are still probably Salt Lake City, Reno, and Fresno.

As for ECHL, Vegas won’t have a full affiliate straight out of the gate.

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