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Vegas Golden Knights Team History

The NHL’s worst-kept secret was their desire to be the first professional sports franchise in Las Vegas. Hosting an outdoor preseason game between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers in 1991, the NHL has always had footprints in Sin City, as the annual Awards Show has taken place there since 2009. The Vegas Golden Knights’ origins can be traced back farther than some think.

vegas golden knightsOriginal expansion rumors have swirled for what seems like decades, but they truly began spreading in late 2014, when the construction of an indoor arena began. Adding to the speculation was that billionaire entrepreneur Bill Foley headed the believed ownership group whose plans were to bring the NHL to Vegas.

After the league opened it’s bidding for expansion franchises in June 2015, which included a $500 million fee, Foley and his Vegas dream were invited to the next phase of the expansion process. In June 2016, Las Vegas was approved by unanimous owners’ vote to be the next NHL franchise. Foley instantly began hiring team staff, including general manager George McPhee, who was previously the GM of the Washington Capitals.

The team’s name was under scrutiny for some time. Foley, a West Point graduate as a member of the U.S. Military, reportedly wanted to name his team the Black Knights. However, various trademark issues surfaced, and Foley began deliberating between various names (landing on Desert Knights, Silver Knights or Golden Knights). On November 22, 2016, Foley unveiled the name of the team to a boisterous crowd in Las Vegas.

The Golden Knights made their first personnel decision in March 2017, when they signed free-agent Reid Duke, a 21-year-old out of the Western Hockey League who was originally a 2014 sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild.

On April 13, McPhee announced that he had found his head coach, bringing former Florida Panthers bench boss Gerard Gallant on board. The team’s second player was signed about a month later, as Vadim Shipachyov, formerly of the KHL, was brought in to likely be the team’s first line center.

vegas golden knightsThe franchise took center stage at the 2017 NHL Awards Show, as the newest team was able to select one player from all 30 NHL teams to make up its roster. These selections were announced throughout the event, with names taken such as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (PHI), James Neal (NSH), David Perron (STL) and Shea Theodore (ANA). However, the team’s biggest acquisition was its starting goaltender, three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT).

GM McPhee (known as GM GM) instantly began making a bold statement: this team is building for the future. As soon as the next day, McPhee was wheeling and dealing, sending away recent acquisitions Trevor van Riemsdyk, David Schlemko and Marc Methot.

Although McPhee made his statement clear, the Golden Knights took the ice in their first season with force. An unfortunate tragedy in downtown Las Vegas occurred days before the NHL season began, sparking an outcry of support from the Golden Knights in the community. They immediately made a name for themselves, going 3-0-0, including a boisterous 5-2 victory in their first ever home game, to begin the franchise’s history. It only built from there, as the Knights broke nearly every expansion team record, recording 51 wins and 109 points to capture the Pacific Division title. The franchise saw monster years from players acquired in the expansion draft, including William Karlsson (43G-35A–78P), Jonathan Marchessault (27G-48A–75P) and Fleury (29-13-4, 2.24 GAA and .927 save percentage) in goal.

Despite the Knights’ unheralded regular season success, many saw them as ripe pickens for a playoff matchup. However, the Knights rolled through the Western Conference, going 12-3 against Los Angeles, San Jose and Winnipeg before finally losing to the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final in five games.

 

The Golden Knights’ success has bled into the following season, where expectations are high for the newly formed franchise. The team has shed some of its inaugural roster, including Neal and Perron, but have replaced them with dynamic forwards Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny.

vegas golden knights
SIK: NHL Hockey: Minnesota Wild vs. Vegas Golden Knights + Behind the Scenes
Game Action and Behind the Scenes
T Mobile Arena/Las Vegas, NV, USA
3/16/2018
X161806 TK1
Credit: Kohjiro Kinno
Feature photo courtesy Las Vegas Review-Journal

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Tags : david perrongeorge mcpheejames nealmarc-andre fleurypat foleyPierre-Edouard Bellemareshea theodorevegas golden knights
Jeff Ponder

The author Jeff Ponder

Jeff brings a wealth of hockey retail experience to xHockeyProducts, as well as a vast knowledge of marketing and content development. Jeff is also a former hockey reporter for various media outlets in the St. Louis area and has attended numerous NHL Entry Drafts. He has played hockey since the age of 10.