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Home Ice, Does It Really Matter?

Yes and No. Pathetic answer I know, but look around the league. Road teams are winning at an alarming rate. Take yesterday for example, two road teams won game six. The home town Islanders looked like they were full off Nana’s meatballs.
They needed 59 minutes and seven seconds to wake up. At least the Wild made it exciting but still lost at home. The Ducks and Preds have two road wins each, same for the Blues and Blackhawks. Overall, road teams are 23-21 in the first round of the postseason. Not much of an advantage. In fact, some think being on the road can benefit playoff teams. Don Cherry suggests players do everything together on the road, and become tighter. Grapes thinks being home brings more distraction, and players have other things on their mind. Being comfortable can be too comfortable for some teams, just check out the Anaheim/Nashville series.

So on one hand, home ice isn’t an advantage. However, in the regular season home ice absolutely matters. Teams usually pad their point total playing at home. Just look around, teams playing now were successful on home ice. San Jose is the only playoff team that played poorly at home. The Sharks season was odd, they lead the league in road wins but placed in the bottom five at home. Jumbo Joe and his squad only lost 13 times on the road, which is pretty impressive. By the way the Sharks clinched their series on the road in Los Angeles. So you decide, does it matter?

That’s a question I hear when outsiders question an expansion team in Las Vegas. People seem to think that half of the T-Moblie arena will be filled with Blackhawks, Rangers, and Canucks fans. Completely washing out the hometown edge for the Knights. You could argue that, or just look at the numbers. 14,000 seats are already taken up leaving roughly 4,000 open seats, and that’s before corporations get their share. Some could be visiting fans, or some could be more locals. I don’t see the disadvantage for Las Vegas, but fine, I’ll play along.

*** Game 56 – 7:30P PST, T-Mobile Arena, vs. Montreal Canadiens ***
Montreal is at the end of a six-game West coast road trip. The Habs have gone 3-2 on the current trip, winning their last game in Arizona. Montreal is a little banged up from playing the three Californian teams and won’t have Brendan Gallagher and PK Subban available. Gally and PK know this information before they land at McCarron. Since they’re at the end of the road trip AND they’re in Las Vegas the two make plans for the team. First it starts with dinner at Gordon Ramsay Steak, then maybe a quick drink at Le Central. Next, it’s either bed time or Hakkasan. The smart veterans will head back to their hotel rooms, but the players who chose clubbing will end up at Drai’s. Wouldn’t you? By the time they stumble out of the Cromwell it’s 5:30A and morning skate is at 10:15A. By puck drop the Canadiens will only be thinking about their plane trip back to Montreal.

This situation will happen 10-15 times a year. It’s up to the Knights to take advantage of a tired, hungover visiting teams. Las Vegas is still Las Vegas, and visiting players will have their fun. These guys have money and will spend it on the Strip. But they’re pro players, and pro players are accustomed to distraction. Players in the NHL will quickly learn how to handle Las Vegas’ temptations. Come playoff time, it won’t matter based off this year’s road team success. The playoffs bring the best out of both teams, not just the hosting club. The Knights won’t be any different, and might get distracted at home like Grapes suggested.

So I’ll ask it again, does home ice matter? I said it earlier… Yes and no. Personally, I think things will even out. Some nights there will be a clear home edge for the Knights, and others not so much. Some visiting players will be distracted by Las Vegas, and others will treat it as if they were in Calgary. Home Ice advantage will come as the team builds a roster and a fanbase. Tourists are the bloodline of Las Vegas, and many will come watch hockey. However, they won’t be the reason the Knights lose a game at home.

Yeah, I called them the Knights throughout the entire article. Wanna fight about it?

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  1. It matters mostly because you can make the last change which is a huge advantage is you have the players to take advantage of match-ups.

  2. Holycowitsjenn

    There’s been so many comments about this very issue. Like you said, Las Vegas is still Las Vegas and pro athletes have money to spend. But then I wonder if some teams see that potential distract and nip it in butt a la Boston with Tyler Seguin (ie. Very strick crew and some babysitters).

    But then, I wonder with that: if the same thing is applied to the new team, how bad will the start of the inaugural season be? A new roster of guys who just moved to Vegas and the novelty hasn’t quite worn off….

  3. sparky chewbarky

    Great article Jason.
    Up here inToronto, we have the same situation with the NBA Raptors.
    During the season, visiting NBA teams come here to party…and party they do!!!
    So, on a Sunday afternoon game, the Raps are playing a team that’s either hung-over, and/or have had 0 hrs. sleep. It’s the reason why the Raptors always have a better season than post-season. (when visiting players curb the partying).

    …But let’s talk atmosphere.
    I’ve been to games in Buffalo where Leafs’ fans made up 1/4 of the crowd.
    …And, I’ve been to Leafs’ home games where the Montreal fans made up a good portion of the gallery.
    In both cases, the atmosphere was fantastic.
    The home crowd HAD to be louder and more involved because of the invading horde.
    Vegas WILL see a large visiting crowd for almost every game.
    The fans will rise to the occasion.
    It’s gonna be great!

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