I grew in the era of high-profile, wealthy athletes proudly stating “I am not a role model” to their young fans.
For those of you that don’t remember, NBA legend Charles Barkley starred in a semi-controversial Nike ad in the 90’s. While the message by Barkley was actually quite important, kids like myself had no clue what Sir Charles was expressing. We just assumed he didn’t care about us or the game and was only in it for the money.
But times have changed since Barkley played. Social media and other outlets have made it easier for players to interact with fans. Some grasp it, and some don’t, but either way, players have much more access getting their message out to fans.
One guy that understands the responsibility of being a local role model is Golden Knights center, William Karlsson.
There are little kids watching and looking up to you, and you want to make a good example for those kids. Overall, in life you just try and be the best person you can be. And if that’s what being a good role model is, then I hope I am. -William Karlsson
Karlsson and I chatted a few weeks back about striving to become a good example for kids on and off the ice. In his point of view, it’s critical for the 26-year center to represent himself and the city of Las Vegas with class.
It was a good old-fashioned Vegas roast on the latest episode of the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast. Host Rear Admiral and former NHL’ers Ryan Whitney and Paul “BizNasty” Bissonette welcomed Golden Knights star’s Marc-Andre Fleury, Nate Schmidt and Ryan Reaves to an evening at the Friars Club.
Coming right off the faceoff, the trio wasted no time bagging on Vegas’ early struggles, and Nate Schmidt’s suspension.
What happened early in the year? -Bissonette
Couldn’t tell you about the first twenty. -Schmidt
Schmitty let us down, you know. -Fleury
Oh, c’mon! -Schmidt
After Fleury cracked up the room with his playful knock on his teammate, the gang asked Schmidt to get into his little stint in Vienna.
I would practice, I’d get bag skated everyday by this Finnish coach. He would come out with no stick, no gloves and put his hands behind his back and just skate up and down the ice. Fifteen laps was their pregame skate one day. I got back to the bench and looked up in the stands at the GM and go, ‘where am I?’ I’m going to be in the best shape of my life when I go back.” -Schmidt
Bag skating is a term players use when coaches are riding them hard in practice. It might be before or after practice, and it could be a variation of laps, goal line to goal line sprints, or suicide laps. Which are even exhausting to think about.
I was bag skating everyday. Five, six times a week. They take their skating a little more seriously. They skate, and skate, and skate. -Schmidt
Schmidt was asked if he traveled with the Vienna Capitals, his adopted club. The never bashful defenseman, although ashamed, openly admitted to some sweet star treatment in Europe.
I went on the road with them one game. The only problem was, this is terrible, the GM and I flew to this place and the rest of team bussed it. It was a nine hour bus ride from Zurich… I was rested. -Schmidt
The Golden Knights defenseman added that training in Vienna was…
Before Christmas, a college hockey showcase took place at the City National Arena featuring dozens of hopefuls looking to be recruited by NCAA hockey programs. I spoke with several college coaches, and not many of them were there to scout goaltenders. Mostly centers and defenseman. I asked why such low interest in goaltending, and one coach told me that all of the good goaltenders in the country have already committed or is currently playing in college. So the odds of finding a goaltender at a college showcase is very low.
What was interesting was this coach went on to explain he tries to sway youth players away from playing goaltender. And he’s looking out for their best interest.
Haha, yeah I’ve heard that. Different goalies and coaches tell their sons to play out in the ice and score some goals. -Marc Andre Fleury
I asked the former #1 Overall Pick, a 425 NHL game winner, three-time Stanley Cup champion, future Hall of Famer… oh heck, I asked the goalie with a million accolades Marc-Andre Fleury about youth goaltending.
If you’re the number one or one of the older guys a lot of the times they play more. Otherwise you sit on the bench. You don’t improve because you’re not playing. -Fleury
Think about it, in a game only one goalie plays for a team. There’s only two per dressing room. On every NHL roster you’ll notice nineteen positional players and only two goaltenders. So essentially, there are only 62 NHL goaltending jobs in the world. Keep in mind there are roughly 600 other players in the NHL. Pretty tough to make the show with such limited number of netminding jobs.
“The parents pay for a season and the kid sits on the bench all season. It stinks. So I can definitely see that point of view.”-Fleury
Subban looks lonely on the VGK bench, imagine how it feels for the backup on a bantam team.
Like Fleury mentioned, if a young goaltender isn’t playing then he’s sitting on the bench not improving. Possibly missing out on future opportunities on the ice. A young, less skilled forward or defenseman will get the ice time to work on their craft, a backup goalie does not. Which is why youth and college coaches suggest kids try all positions to see which really fits best. Not all young goalies can be the consensus number one goaltender in the world at age seventeen like Fleury was.
“My mom always thought it was a little stressful watching me playing goalie growing up. People yelling when they scored on me. I just had the most fun out there.”-Marc Andre Fleury
At the youth level the cost of goalie pads are more expensive than other positions. Competition is tight so ice time is limited. Scholarships don’t come easy for goaltenders, leaving parents footing the tuition bill. And if a young goaltender ends up getting drafted, there are less than 100 NHL positions too look forward to. The odds are certainly stacked against them.
So, I guess the moral here is tell your future NHL’er that it’s best to start off as one of the other nineteen positions. I don’t know, tell them chicks dig centers, and d-men are the best skaters on the team. This way they can look ahead to playing in high school, college and possibly further. Unless, of course your child is the next Marc-Andre Fleury. In that case email Dave Prior.
These two things are kind of a big reason for the massive bump in ratings. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
It’s no secret to anyone that the Vegas Golden Knights are the most popular item in Las Vegas right now. Show up to a game, there are routinely 18,000+ people wearing grey and gold. Drive down the street and you’ll see thousands of VGK decals, stickers, plate holders, and now even custom license plates. You can go pretty much anywhere in this city and you are almost guaranteed to see the Golden Knights logo somewhere or on someone.
But the best determinant of actual fandom is eyeballs. By that I mean, people watching the games on TV.
Last year the numbers were very hard to come by (believe me, we asked over 20 times over the course of the season), but as the regular season came to a close, Sports Business Journal was able to gather the average number from the season.
For context, the league leader was the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 5.81 rating, the Buffalo Sabres came in second at 4.62 and the St. Louis Blues pulled a 3.93. The worst ratings in the league were by the Anaheim Ducks (0.24) and the Florida Panthers (0.27).
Before I show you the numbers for this year, let me explain TV ratings quickly. The numbers above, called “ratings” indicate what percentage of total households with televisions (whether turned on or not) are watching the channel. There’s another metric, called “share” which indicates the total percentage of households have that actually have TVs turned on which are tuned to a channel.
So, on to the fun numbers. Here are the Golden Knights ratings per game on AT&T SportsNet this season.
**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.**
I remember hearing all the negative comments about Golden Knights defenseman Nick Holden’s play the first month of the season.
He turned the puck over. He was out of position. He added nothing to the offense. And a lot of it was true.
But I also knew that it takes players time to adjust to a new team, a new system and living in a new city. Playing in a different division and conference also factor into the break-in period.
So I was preaching patience. But I’ll admit, my patience with the 31-year-old Holden was being tested. Here was an NHL veteran who was in his eighth season. I was expecting better. Not a whole lot better, mind you, but better than what I was witnessing.
The last few weeks, Holden has restored my faith in the free-agent signing George McPhee made on July 1. He has ramped up his play considerably and he has found a home on the third defensive pairing with Colin Miller.
I’m definitely comfortable. Any time you come to a new situation, you’re going to go through some adjustments. -Nick Holden
The biggest adjustments are learning the idiosyncrasies of your teammates, finding your role and comfort zone with your personality in the locker room and understanding what your coach wants and assimilating yourself in the team’s system and style of play.
When Nate Schmidt was serving his 20-game suspension, Holden was playing with several different partners. It was a difficult adjustment. Little things like which side of the ice you’re playing (Holden’s a left-handed shot), to knowing the speed of the forwards to headman the puck to them to simply having a feel for how the puck is passed to you can all contribute to a player’s comfort (or discomfort) level.
But if you look at Holden’s play the past couple of weeks, you’re seeing the player McPhee thought he was getting.
He’s reading the play better. He’s making smarter decisions when to jump into the attack and support the play. He’s picking up the opposing forwards better in his own zone and using his stick better to get into passing lanes and clear rebounds from in front of the net.
**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.**
Saturday was my favorite night of the hockey season, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the Golden Knights’ 6-0 win over the San Jose Sharks
It was also the hardest night of the season, emotionally speaking.
The NHL’s 31 teams all celebrate “Hockey Fights Cancer” during November. It has been going on for 20 years now and has raised tens of millions of dollars for cancer research. From the special lavender jerseys the teams wear in warmups and are ultimately auctioned off, to the inspiring stories we hear throughout the league, to the signs fans hold up in arenas proclaiming who they “Fight For,” it’s one of the best things the NHL does.
Who among us hasn’t been impacted by cancer? Whether it was yourself, a family member, a friend, cancer doesn’t discriminate. Man or woman. Rich or poor. Black or white. American, Canadian or Russian. Cancer can get any of us.
We’ll get to how it got me in a minute. But first, I wanted to applaud Kendell Galor, who was honored in the pregame ceremony.
Kendell is a member of the Golden Knights family along with the UNLV hockey family. She is a strength and conditioning intern for the Knights and she is the trainer for UNLV’s hockey team.
Back in June, 2016, a rare form of brain tumor was found. After months of treatments and surgeries, she is winning her battle. (To learn more about Kendell’s story and to watch her ceremonial puck drop before the game, see the videos at the end of this column.)
Colin Magdon is also trying to win his battle. The 7-year-old who plays for the Junior Golden Knights, has leukemia. He recently had his first round of chemotherapy and his fight is well under way.
I hear these stories about young people and cancer and it breaks my heart.
Last year, the Knights visited the Nevada Childhood Cancer Center in Henderson to spend a couple of hours with kids who are waging a brave battle against cancer. To a man, every player who visited and spent time with those kids that day said it was one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. And remember, many of these same players the month before were in the community supporting the victims of the October 1 mass shooting.
It’s days like Saturday where sports and the community can bond, where we can be there for each other, where we can raise awareness for a cause that is worth fighting for.
And while everyone wants the Golden Knights to win on the ice, sometimes, getting a little perspective is even more important. Because as much as a win Saturday against San Jose will bring a smile to Colin Magdon’s face or make Kendell Galor feel a little better as she drives home from T-Mobile Arena, the fact they know people care about them and want to help them is more important than two points and a .500 record.
Last night the Golden Knights held the annual “Season Ticket Holder Event” in which more than 4,000 season ticket members showed up to Mandalay Bay to paint VGK logos on canvases provided by Pinot’s Palette.
While the fans were painting, the entire Golden Knights roster showed up to sign autographs, take pictures, and chat with the thousands in attendance. It was as unique as a “hockey” event can possibly be.
When the event ended season ticket holders were given their 2018-19 member box. (Pictures at the end of the article) It’s become a tradition the team intends on continuing for at least the first five years. In that box was a tiny glass vial filled with the water that made the ice at T-Mobile Arena last season.
Like anyone, I saw the vial and had questions, is it really the actual water and if so, what are the logistics of making this happen? So, like any good blogger professional writer I found the answer, and yes, it really is the water.
We needed something different. Brian Killingsworth (Chief Marketing Officer) brought it up and we’re like, well that’s interesting, is that even physically possible? I said, if we can’t do the real thing, it would be foolish. So, the end of the season we worked with Salami (Ice Man), and once the ice melted we had buckets down at T-Mobile Arena. Then, we had to ship those buckets by ground to Arkansas. Our group out there had the vials already and they filled them. We only did 6,000 of them. There’s still some water left, but it is absolutely the real water from the ice. -Todd Pollock, Director of Ticketing
How has he never realized this!?! The guy lives in an ice rink! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
If you thought you drank too much coffee, then you’ll enjoy this great anecdote from NBC Sports’ Pierre McGuire. The ‘Between the Benches’ analyst joked about bumping into a fully caffeinated George McPhee at an early Vegas practice in Washington.
You know you’re supposed to go to the rink everyday and learn something new. So, I came to the rink today in Washington and I’m sitting there and it’s dark and I’m by myself. Then all of a sudden this really in shape 60-year-old man sits next to me, George McPhee. Maybe, one of the best dressed general managers in the league, and obviously one of the toughest. He was a nasty piece of business. –Pierre McGuire on TSN 690 Montréal
When an award-winning GM and a high-profile hockey personality are casually sitting together, you’d think they’d be talking about something important. You know, like VGK’s PP deficiencies or highly rated prospects like Erik Brannstrom. Nope, the two spent time together talking about what was in McPhee’s cup.
So he says to me, ‘See what I’m drinking?’ I said no what are drinking George? He goes ‘I’m drinking coffee. In all my years in the league I didn’t start drinking coffee until this year… I feel that it helps my workload.’ I’m not kidding you. I was stunned. -McGuire
Everyday jamokes like me, can’t function without a hot cup of joe, and with all of the pressure being an NHL general manager brings, McGuire was floored by McPhee’s newest (off the ice) discovery.
At sixty! At sixty he just started drinking coffee. -McGuire
Last year the Golden Knights offered a program called VGK University in which fans were able to skate at T-Mobile Arena, get tickets to games, and attend classroom sessions taught by Senior Vice President Murray Craven and Director of Hockey Operations Misha Donskov. The program sold out quickly and the response from those who attended was tremendous, which is why VGKU is back this year.
VGK University presented by City National Bank will take place on Vegas Golden Knights game days, and feature Hockey 101 lessons including hockey basics, offensive and defensive strategies, special teams and coaching preparation. In addition, VGK University will have optional skates at T-Mobile Arena before the Hockey 101 sessions, including introductory hockey skill instruction from Craven & Donskov. Skate rentals will be provided. Participants also receive a ticket to the respective Golden Knights game with their VGK University package. -Golden Knights Press Release
Obviously, the highlights are skating on the ice at T-Mobile and attending games, but take it from me, the part that will stick with you more than anything else from VGK University will be the Hockey 101 sessions.
Last year I was given the opportunity to sit in on a session of VGK University, and to say the least, I was blown away with how great it was. Misha and Murray go incredibly in-depth teaching the game mainly through video. They illustrate principals of the game, then show video clips to bring them to life.
You can’t see the screen, but in this picture, Donskov is explaining exactly where each player is supposed to be when the opposing team dumps the puck into the zone describing the players as F1, F2, D1, etc. And not a single person in the room was confused. That’s what you get from VGKU.
The classes begin fairly basic but progress into much deeper concepts including things like forechecking strategies, defense to offense transition, and penalty kill structure. No matter who you are or how long you’ve been watching (or even playing) hockey, you’ll learn something in these classroom sessions.
Dosnkov is a former video coordinator/hockey analytics coordinator for Team Canada. He’s also been an assistant coach for three Canada gold medals (2016 IIHF, 2015 IIHF, 2015 World Juniors). Craven played in the NHL for 18 seasons scoring 266 goals and tallying 759 points in just over 1,000 games. In other words, when combined these guys have forgotten more hockey than most current NHL players know and they are sharing that knowledge with you at VGK University.
Got to be the Radulov story. I can't remember which podcast it was in that we told the whole thing, and it was actually Jason who experienced it, but let's just say, not only did he refuse to answer questions but he made sure everyone knew who was the big man on campus. https://t.co/WXFs3bqDP8
I do not. I belive Turk will stick with Pacioretty-Stastny-Haula and he'll slot Tuch in on the 3rd. Though that could change if the 2nd line struggles between now and Tuch coming back. https://t.co/rID6XocQU0
Can't say it's a bad bet. I still think they get in the playoffs without any issue, so that would make them 16:1. Don't think they'll be the worst team heading in either. Might have waited until this road trip is over though, could see it going up a bit more if they drop 2 more. https://t.co/iMy2OtuxAX
I wouldn't. I expect a bounce back effort for VGK. Vegas should be dogs but I think the game is going to be close to a toss up. I'm guessing 3-3 heading into OT, game-winner by Karlsson in OT. https://t.co/xlOwRcaByU
Not really. The 91.9 PDO is insane. That'll turn around relatively soon, if not as soon as tomorrow. If they can get 3 points in the next 3 games they are in great shape, 4 or more would be amazing. If they don't get another 2 points on this trip, then I'll be a bit worried. https://t.co/IKthDlWZtO
It actually ended up being 11th in the league last year, which isn't that bad. I think missing Tuch and Schmidt has hurt PP more than it has anything else. They'll get it going on PP. Don't think they'll be Top 10, but it won't be 0 for. Plus PK has been excellent. https://t.co/wxkVy3RKDk