–The expansion Vegas Golden Knights will be the 31st team in the National Hockey League.
–The Golden Knights are also the first ‘major’ pro sport franchise in Las Vegas.
–The Golden Knights will play their home games in the brand new T-Mobile Arena.
The Vegas Golden Knights will begin play this Fall as the National Hockey League’s 31st team. That’s the short version of their story but looking at the big picture the Golden Knights will be one of the more fascinating expansion teams to come down the pike in any sport. For most expansion teams, the questions are obvious–how many games will they win and how quickly will they find traction in their market. For the Golden Knights there are so many issues at play with the majority having to do with their very unique home market of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The history of professional sports in Las Vegas isn’t impressive. No less than thirty teams have set up shop in Southern Nevada with only one surviving longer than six years (the ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers who played at the Orleans Arena from 2003 to 2014). From the Las Vegas Cowboys of the Continental Football League (moved to Las Vegas from the Quad Cities in 1968 and folded in 1970) to the Las Vegas Outlaws of the Arena Football League (didn’t make it one full season) pro sports have been one of the worst bets in town.
The challenges that a team faces in Las Vegas are unique. It’s a city with a large transient population who don’t have particularly strong roots to the area. The city’s main industry not only runs 24/7 but competes with every other leisure and entertainment option for consumer dollars. The 24/7 nature of the gambling industry also means that a large portion of the labor force works non-traditional hours. Until recently, the city had substandard facilities for a professional sports teams. Las Vegas had venues that were great for ‘one off’ events like boxing–the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay Events Center for example–but were unsuitable for a full season and a regular tenant.
WHY ARE THINGS DIFFERENT NOW?
The most glaring change in the Las Vegas Metro Area over the past several decades has been it’s massive population growth. In 1960, the Vegas Valley had only 127,000 residents. By 1970 that had more than doubled to 273,000. That was nothing. The metro area surpassed the 1 million mark in 2000 and as of the 2010 Census had 1,951,269 residents. Recent estimates put the Las Vegas Metro Area population at well over 2.1 million making it one of the thirty largest in the United States.
The Golden Knights will also be the first ‘big 4’ North American sports league to set up shop in ‘Sin City’. Just about every other renegade league has had a team in Las Vegas including the Canadian Football League (CFL), the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), Roller Hockey International, several indoor soccer and football leagues and even Vince McMahon’s ill-fated XFL. The Lingerie Football League (which has inexplicably rebranded as the ‘Legends Football League‘) was represented by the Las Vegas Sin but they met the same fate as every other pro sports team and folded in 2016. The closest thing that the city has had to a major pro sports team is when the Utah Jazz played 11 home games at the Thomas & Mack Center during the 1983-1984 NBA season.
Definitely no issues with the venue–the T-Mobile Arena is by all accounts a beautiful, state of the art facility that will hold 17,368 for hockey. It will be one of the smallest arenas in the NHL in terms of capacity but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Making it a good venue for hockey has been a priority throughout construction so it won’t be a train wreck like the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
LAS VEGAS–A HOCKEY TOWN?
Although it sounds absurd for a city that only rarely sees ice and snow Las Vegas has shown a great deal of affection for Canada’s national sport. The two most successful Las Vegas pro sports teams in terms of longevity were hockey teams–the Las Vegas Thunder of the IHL played at the Thomas and Mack Center for six seasons. The Las Vegas Wranglers were done in more by the poor availability of facilities in the area circa 2013-2014 than anything else. The NHL has played exhibition games in Las Vegas since 1991 when the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers played on a rink in the Caesars Palace parking lot. This led to an annual game called ‘Frozen Fury’ that ran from 1997 to 2015. The city also has a strong youth hockey scene that will only improve with the Golden Knights in town.
There’s no longer any question that hockey can not only survive but thrive in ‘non traditional markets’. The support of the fans in Nashville and throughout Tennessee during the Predators recent Stanley Cup playoffs run was borderline insane. The Predators are a good model for the Las Vegas franchise as they set out to put a winning team on the ice immediately. They didn’t try to ride the ‘novelty’ of a NHL team in a new market for several years. The demographics of Las Vegas still pose many questions but that can be said about a number of markets where the NHL has been successful such as Columbus and Tampa. The pieces are all in place off the ice and if team management can build a quality product on the ice the Vegas Golden Knights could become another non-traditional market NHL success story.
Here are some proposition odds on the Vegas Golden Knights and how they’ll fare in their debut season:
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2017-2018 NHL SEASON PROPOSITION BETTING ODDS
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2017-2018 WIN TOTAL?
Over 24.5 wins: +110
Under 24.5 wins: -130
WHEN WILL THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS WIN THEIR FIRST REGULAR SEASON GAME?
Before or on October 25, 2017: -150
After October 25, 2017: +130
WHERE WILL THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS WIN THEIR FIRST REGULAR SEASON GAME?
NUMBER OF PLAYERS FROM THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS TO MAKE THE 2017-2018 NHL ALL STAR GAME?
Over 1.5: +150
Under 1.5: -180
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TEMPERATURE AT MCCARRAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AT THE TIME OF OPENING FACEOFF PUCK DROP FOR THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS FIRST REGULAR SEASON HOME GAME?
Over 74.5 degrees F: -130
Under 74.5 degrees F: +110
WILL THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS MAKE THE 2017-2018 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS?
WILL THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS FINISH 2017-2018 WITH THE BEST RECORD IN THE PACIFIC DIVISION?
WILL THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS FINISH 2017-2018 WITH THE BEST RECORD IN THE WESTERN CONFERENCE?
WILL THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS WIN THE WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIP AND ADVANCE TO THE STANLEY CUP FINALS?
WILL THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS WIN THE 2017-2018 STANLEY CUP?
2017-2018 AVERAGE ATTENDANCE AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS HOME GAMES?
Over 16,500: +130
Under 16,500: -150
2017-2018 AVERAGE ATTENDANCE AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS HOME GAMES?
Over 15,500: -140
Under 15,500: +120
2017-2018 AVERAGE PERCENTAGE OF CAPACITY AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS HOME GAMES?
Over 96.5%: +130
Under 96.5%: -150
WILL THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS SELL OUT THEIR FIRST REGULAR SEASON HOME GAME AT T-MOBILE ARENA?
WHICH WILL BE HIGHER?
UNLV men’s basketball average attendance +4000 per game: +130
Vegas Golden Knights average attendance: -150