T-Mobile Arena is shaking. 19,058 fans are on their feet, screaming for their team. As the clock winds down, the goal horn blares; a swarm of gold spills over the boards, sticks and gloves fly in the air. They did it. They did it.
“The silver trophy, to the Golden Knights!”
It was 2016 when the NHL announced that Las Vegas would be getting its very first professional sports team… hockey in the desert.
I grew up in Las Vegas, and I remember I was 13 years old, sitting in front of the TV waiting for the name and logo reveal of our team. Owner of the franchise, Bill Foley, stood outside the newly constructed T-Mobile Arena along with hundreds of fans eager to meet our new team. Gold and gray streamers flooded the skies, and the sound of our new goal horn played for the first time. It was then that Bill Foley unveiled a name and logo that would redefine a city: The Vegas Golden Knights. It was perfect.
Of course, people had their doubts. “Las Vegas is 99% tourists”. “There are no hockey fans in Vegas”. “Doesn’t everyone live in the casinos?”
Surprisingly, that is a legitimate question I’ve been asked.
Admittedly, in a city where it can feel like 80 degrees in the middle of December, it was hard to see how ice hockey could really work in the desert.
However, many in the hockey world were quickly proven wrong.
The Misfits Were Born:
After the identity of the team was revealed, up next was well, making the team.
The 2017 NHL expansion draft brought together a group of misfits, 30 castoffs not protected by their respective teams. This brought along that “misfit mentality” for those left unprotected, wanting to prove themselves and show that their old teams had made a mistake.
Flower, Wild Bill, Marchy, Theo… this is where Vegas got to see these guys for the first time. Guys that would become the face of the franchise, and guys that would turn a once sport-less city, into one of the best markets in the country.
While the expansion draft brought hope and excitement to the city of Las Vegas, tragically, on October 1, 2017, the city experienced a devastating mass shooting that shook the city and the nation to its core.
October 1, Vegas Strong:
The mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, remains the largest in U.S. history, leaving a devastating toll of 58 lives lost (later adjusted to 60), and hundreds injured. The aftermath of the tragic Route 91 mass shooting left the city in shock and mourning, but amidst the darkness, the Vegas Golden Knights emerged as a beacon of hope and healing.
The Golden Knights took on a new role beyond the ice, becoming a symbol of unity and resilience for the community. The team embraced their responsibility and dedicated their inaugural NHL season to honouring the victims and supporting the survivors and first responders.
Through various initiatives, the Golden Knights provided emotional support and financial assistance to those affected, organizing charity events, and visiting survivors in hospitals, lending a listening ear and offering a glimmer of joy during an otherwise difficult time. The phrase “Vegas Strong” was adopted in the hearts of everyone in Vegas.
Along with their charitable efforts, the Golden Knights’ incredible on-ice success further united the city and helped in the healing process.
The team’s Western Conference Champions title along with their historic run to the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals brought the Las Vegas community together, creating a sense of camaraderie and distraction from the pain of the past.
T-Mobile Arena became a sanctuary where people could come together, cheer, and celebrate as one.
Always Advance, Never Retreat. The team motto.
In the four years between their inaugural season and their championship season, Vegas adopted the motto, “Always Advance, Never Retreat”. The phrase was even inscribed on the collar of their jerseys. They were knights, wielding swords and shields, facing every enemy head-on. Always advancing, never retreating. Pretty badass, right?
And that attitude, as well as what came of it, proves that Vegas earned everything they worked so hard for. There was that heartbreak and pain that the rest of the hockey world thinks Vegas didn’t get enough of.
Sure, we didn’t have to wait 56 years (and counting, Toronto) to see Vegas hoist the cup. This team simply didn’t need it. But we did witness resilience, perseverance, and grit.
2018: Washington ended the Knights’ Cinderella story, winning the Stanley Cup on Vegas’ ice.
2019: The infamous comeback, 4 goals in 5 minutes for San Jose that would win them Game 7 in Round 1.
2020: Dallas defeated Vegas in five games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
2021: Western Conference Final, Montreal defeated Vegas and advanced to the Finals against Tampa Bay.
2022: Vegas did not qualify for the playoffs.
But something felt different this year.
We Are The Champions:
One of the most remarkable things about Game 5 to me was the starting lineup. Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy sent out forwards William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and defensemen Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb. Five original Golden Misfits. How fitting.
Vegas would go on to win Game 5, and the Stanley Cup.
That night epitomized the extraordinary journey of a team once considered misfits, now transformed into champions. Cast aside by their former teams as not good or valuable enough, these players found their home in Vegas, where they were embraced for who they were.
And for Vegas, this was more than just a Stanley Cup win. This was a tale of hope, resilience, and the ultimate triumph of the underdog. With unwavering passion, dedication, and the unyielding support of their fans, the Golden Knights proved that anything was possible.
Original misfit William Karlsson said it best:
“[Y]ou have been here — day f**king one. You guys are so amazing.”
“We played in Arizona the first game. We beat the sh*t out of them. And I had no points, but that’s okay, because Year One, I was pretty f**king great, but you guys were greater.”
And that’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about since “day f**king one”. The fans. The city of Las Vegas. This was for us, and the story of the Vegas Golden Knights, misfits turned champions, will forever go down in history as one of the greatest stories in sports history.