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.
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.
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.
Feature photo courtesy Las Vegas Review-Journal
To shop our entire store, click your link below: