With in-person media sessions returning this season the small talk before, during, and after press conferences has made its triumphant return. It might seem meaningless from a fan perspective but these little moments are when we in the media learn more about the humans behind the players and coaches and allow us to share some of their personalities with you.
Gerard Gallant was full of gems from his obsession with Diet Coke to his love of the Zac Brown Band to his favorite peculiar postgame snack, bologna. Like it or not, the head coach is the face of the organization, and learning more about these guys allows fans to connect with the man shown on camera more than anyone else in the organization.
The pandemic struck within months of Pete DeBoer taking over as Golden Knights head coach so those moments to this point have been few and far between, but recently we’ve been getting a peek behind what seemed to be a pretty iron clad curtain. Stay tuned throughout the rest of the season as assuredly there will be many more of these, but one jumped out at me early in camp.
That nugget is his interest in the NFL. As a lifelong hockey coach who is always working during the football season, it caught me off guard a bit that he was into football. But a comment at the media room being empty on a Raiders Sunday followed by a jab at a reporter wearing a face covering that was half New York Jets and half New York Giants (to which DeBoer said “oof, I’m sorry about that”) piqued my interest into his affinity for football.
It got me wondering, have the two coaches of Las Vegas’ major professional sports ever chatted about their experiences? It turns out they haven’t yet, but not because the hockey coach isn’t interested, in fact, quite the opposite.
I reached out because I really wanted to sit in and watch part of their training camp and how they do some of that stuff, but with COVID it just didn’t work out, but that’s on my bucket list of things I’d love to do. -Pete DeBoer
What DeBoer hopes to get out of a meeting with Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden is fascinating and certainly could help the Golden Knights.
By now most hockey fans have read the news developing down in Glendale, Arizona. The city is no longer interested in hosting the hometown Coyotes in their city funded arena. This isn’t much of surprise since the two parties have been battling for almost a decade. The situation down in Arizona is a stark difference to what’s happening here in Las Vegas.
Both the Coyotes and the NHL are one hundred percent committed to staying here, and even if our specific arena plans beyond the 2021-2022 season are not yet confirmed, I want to be very clear to you that our future is here in Arizona.- Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez
A True Expansion Team
When the Arizona Coyotes were originally formed the franchise was someone else’s leftovers. An already established club with players that made the move from dreary old Winnipeg to bright and sunny Phoenix. There was excitement in Arizona but not in the same way fans felt here in Vegas. Coyote fans were forced to cheer on a team that had finished 5th the prior year, all while the Cardinals and Suns were kicking off their seasons. It was difficult for the new addition to break through and gain the same momentum the Golden Knights did in 2017.
Also Vegas didn’t have to compete with an NFL or NBA team allowing Golden Knights fans to solely focus their attention fall on a newly formed unit called The Misfits. Both parties came together to form the greatest season in expansion history. Not sure the Cup run fairy tale would’ve happened if Las Vegas had inherited a defunct franchise’s roster.
Hidden Star Power
When the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft roster was announced it was the Vegas Golden Knights front and center. The 31st franchise didn’t have to share headlines with other incoming teams like the generation of expansion teams that came before them. Since the attention was fully on Sin City, fans only needed to focus on the player’s owner Bill Foley and GM George McPhee drafted. James Neal, David Perron and of course Marc-Andre Fleury were established names in the league but it was the unknown players that fans drew to as well. William Karlsson quickly became a star in Las Vegas after wasting away in Columbus. Same went for other Misfits. Alex Tuch, Jonathan Marchessault and even Deryk Engelland became marquees on Las Vegas Boulevard.
The roster changed slightly before the Coyotes kicked off their inaugural season featuring young captain Keith Tkachuk, future Hall of Famer Shane Doan and goaltender (the Bulin Wall) Nikolai Khabibulin. Unfortunately for Coyotes fans, stars like Teemu Selanne were sold off before the move.
Winning Of Course
The Coyotes have been operating for 24 seasons and have yet to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. The desert dogs once reached the Western Conference Final in 2012 but flamed out to eventual Cup winner LA Kings. In four seasons Vegas has matched and exceeded Arizona’s accomplishments. The Golden Knights have proven that hockey can “work in the desert” by winning hockey games. Plain and simple, the Coyotes haven’t done that consistently enough over their history.
In contrast, the Coyotes own the worst franchise win percentage (.479) in the NHL and the Golden Knights for now, have the best (.636) in league history. Of course the numbers favor the much youngest organization but Arizona has had plenty of seasons to climb out of the gutter. A successful club breeds confidence and a dedicated fanbase. Vegas developed that in only four years.
Becoming A Destination
Victories lead to playoff appearances, trophies and the pick of the free agent litter. The Coyotes started off strong making the playoffs in five of their first six seasons but have qualified for postseason only four times since then. The Golden Knights accomplishments and winning attitude allowed the front office to convince Alex Pietrangelo, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Alec Martinez to long term agreements either through free agency or trade extensions. Arizona has been unable to sign that many quality players in over 20 years of existence. The Phoenix area might be a desirable location to play hockey but if the team isn’t successful, high end talent will look to play elsewhere, like in Las Vegas. That’s been the case for the Coyotes.
Say No To Public Funding
Lastly, and this is a big reason why Arizona and Vegas don’t share the same problems. The Coyotes organization have been desperately campaigning for public financing to build a state of the art arena. That can come across as greedy and too risky for certain taxpayers. We see it in our own backyard as some Vegas residents despise that the city funded Allegiant Stadium. Golden Knights fans won’t have to worry about any nasty public negotiations as T-Mobile Arena was built with private money.
The future in Arizona is up in the air, but it won’t matter. The Coyotes will never own a market like the Golden Knights do, even if they were as committed to winning. After four straight successful seasons and one amazing run to the Cup Finals, Vegas fans and players have quickly bonded. That connection from the inaugural season will never get lost, even down the road after a few losing seasons. If they stay put or move, the Coyotes proved hockey may not work in all desert cities, but it sure works in Las Vegas.
Before the announcement of the Golden Knights in 2016, professional sports seemed like a long shot in Las Vegas. Baseless theories of legal, local gambling influencing the outcome of games were used as excuses. When in reality, the thought of millionaire athletes risking their careers and future contracts to fix one game is, and was always, far-fetched.
Rewind five years, surprising to some the NHL took the risk and became the first league to crack the Las Vegas market. However, as revealed by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman the NHL is still concerned with gambling and the integrity of the game but has nothing to do with Nevada. The league proved that last week when they harshly punished veteran official Tim Peel. The last thing the NHL could afford was a corrupt official like infamous NBA referee Tim Donaghy.
There were deep conversations about how damaging it is to your league during a crisis of consumer confidence. The CBA between the NHL and its officials now contains specific code-of-conduct references: ‘Each official agrees to abstain from habits of intemperance, gambling, immorality or other conduct likely to bring himself and/or the NHL and/or the game of Hockey into disrepute or which results in the impairment of public confidence in the honest and orderly conduct of NHL games or the integrity and good character of its officials.’ -Elliotte Friedman, 31 Thoughts on Sportsnet
Last week the NHL quickly nipped a potential controversy in the bud when the official’s hot mic became a major story.
Initially, the story had absolutely nothing to do with gambling, but because of past issues in other sports, the NHL made a tough stand to ensure fans their product is genuine. Without transparency, gambling on hockey could be eliminated, and sadly to say, the interest in the sport would decrease significantly, not to mention millions in lost endorsement money for the league.
Today was dubbed by most as a historic day as the NFL approved the Raiders move from Oakland to Las Vegas. The Raiders are set to begin playing in Las Vegas in 2020. The Vegas Golden Knights, Vegas’ major first professional sports franchise, put out a statement shortly after the news went public.
“On behalf of the entire Vegas Golden Knights family, I would like to welcome and congratulate Mark Davis and the Oakland Raiders on their relocation to the great city of Las Vegas. It truly is an exciting time to be from Las Vegas. There is only a select group of cities in North America that are home to both an NHL and an NFL franchise and Vegas is now one of them. This alone should be a great source of pride for our community and our fans. Las Vegas has always been one of the most popular destination cities in the world and it is now emerging as a premier location for major league professional sports. -The Creator
That’s the politically correct version. Let’s just put it this way, The Creator was a bit more honest and forthcoming on a must-hear interview with The Vegas Hockey Hotline on KSHP 1400 (embedded below).
“If I had complete control, I would have rather the Raiders would not have been here. But I didn’t, so welcome. Bring em on.” -Foley
Today could be a big day in Las Vegas. Sin City’s second “big day” in less than a year. I’ve come around on the Raiders potential move. (Note: This is Jason, Ken has definitely not come around. I’m sure he’ll have something to say soon.) At first, I was concerned it would impact the growth of the already established Golden Knights. However, I’m not as worried anymore. The Knights are already in development and ready to take center stage this Fall. Nothing can stop the swell of VGK excitement now. The hockey growth began almost a year ago and its building by the day.
One issue that concerned me the most was the local interest after the Raiders relocate. Of course, the NFL steals headlines from the other major sports and it’s already happening here. If it wasn’t for the SinBin.vegas and the occasional RJ article, you would barely see local coverage of the Golden Knights. I’m sure it’ll get to The Creator at some point, but it could motivate him and his team. Nothing frustrates franchise owners more than lack of press. No matter how well teams play, the Rangers, Yankees and Lakers will constantly steal attention from the Islanders, Mets and Clippers. That type of lopsided attention will keep some owners up at night.
Let’s use Boston as an example. Nothing concerned Red Sox Owner John Henry more than the success of the upstart New England Patriots in the early 2000’s. When he bought the team, the Red Sox were the king of the city. The Pats, Celtics and Bruins shared one sport page, in both newspapers. Losing steam to the Pats, Henry knew he had to win the World Series. The success and attention of the Pats and Sox even trickled down to the Celtics and Bruins as well.
The healthy competition of all four teams ended up victoriously for each franchise. That can happen here in Las Vegas. We’ve heard The Creator’s desire to win, another franchise moving in won’t distract the new owner’s pursuit of winning the Stanley Cup. In fact, it could motivate him even more. Being second fiddle will eventually tick him off. Winning is the cure for that which was the original plan anyway.
Las Vegas will be a great two-team town. And by the way, it could work both ways. The Davis family will be treated like royalty for the time being. It could change quickly if the Raiders have losing seasons. Late season lack of interest can hurt the bottom line. If that happens to the Las Vegas Raiders, panic will ensue. At that point, Marc Davis will be the Golden Knights biggest fan. Another team winning will help keep angry fans distracted. If he’s smart, in the offseason he should trade in his Black and Silver for Black and Gold.
Way before the NHL announced a new franchise, critics wouldn’t stop bringing up home-ice advantage in Las Vegas… or a supposed lack there of. We’re not dumb, we know there will be other fans at the T-Mobile arena. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict the impact, but I personally think it’s overblown, especially if the team is good. The NHL doesn’t seem all that concerned either. Forty-one home games will be hard for visiting fans to consistently take over. Eight games seems far more feasible. And you know what league plays eight home games?
Thankfully, Mark Davis and his terrible haircut are still a few years away. However, he’s the one who should really prepare himself for a weak home-field advantage. Even the ghost of Al Davis can look up the reaction around the country. NFL fans are anxious for the Raiders relocation. Good for the NFL, bad for the team. Right? Ha, that’s what critics said about Vegas hockey. However, the Golden Knights play 33 more home games than the Raiders. It’s a formula that could spell trouble for the relocated franchise.
Las Vegas native and Pro Bowl linebacker Brandon Marshall is all about relocation. Marshall plays for the Broncos, so a quick trip home is a bonus. That also means Denver fans are a quick trip away as well. Marshall tweeted out his Bronco pride and confidence his fans will travel to Las Vegas.
I know damn well Broncos fans would rather travel to Vegas than to Oakland anyday!You’ll have more fun, shorter travel,less expensive flight