How the Golden Knights took over Las Vegas

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Vegas Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson (20) congratulates his teammates.

As it turns out, Elvis never left the building. In fact, it turned up often this season in the Vegas Golden Knights locker room.

Some teams honor outstanding performances by giving players a replica boxing championship belt. Others don a sombrero or cowboy hat. The Golden Knights, whose winning song is “Viva Las Vegas”, are donning glittery Elvis wigs and sunglasses for headliners.

For the Golden Knights, whose spectacular over-the-top entertainment at T-Mobile Arena features knights in armor, Elvis impersonators and showgirls in team-themed headdresses but little else, there’s a bond over Elvis Presley – or a funny replica – makes perfect sense. .

“Elvis is a good representative for Vegas,” said frontman Jack Eichel, who came up with the idea. “It’s always great if you have something to wear, I think. I think it’s a good fit for our group.”

He fits the last spangle on the jumpsuit of every self-respecting Elvis. “It’s Vegas. I don’t think I have to say anything,” former King Alec Martinez said of the scene at home games. “I mean, Vegas, that’s exactly what you think. The dancers, Elvis, loud music, gambling, people losing their dignity.”

Las Vegas loves glitz and glamour. He also likes the Golden Knights, who entered the NHL in 2017 and took advantage of generous expansion terms and a smart move by then-general manager George McPhee to reach the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

They lost to Washington in five games, but they can win the silver medal on home ice Tuesday if they shut out the Florida Panthers in Game 5. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942, trailed Detroit 3 -0, came back from a 3-1 deficit in the final. The plucky Panthers, who barely made the playoffs in the East before upsetting Boston, may be too stressed to muster another big rally.

The mood on Tuesday will be crazy. More detailed, crazier than ever.

“It’s going to be loud in there. It always is. So it will be even higher, I assume,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said Sunday, a travel day for both teams. “I think there will be a lot more stuff going on outside the building than before. There’s a lot of that when there’s a team on the roster. That’s just the way it is, and should be.

“I think the fans should be celebrating, or be ready to celebrate. It’s up to us to do the work, obviously. Florida is a huge obstacle in our way of doing that. … But the fans should enjoy the moment, be ready for it. They’ve been behind this team for six years now, a real fan base, and we should embrace that part of it.”

People in Las Vegas are used to seeing celebrities in casinos, nightclubs and showrooms, but few stars shine as brightly as the Cup. He’ll be in the building on Tuesday, tucked away in their travel case until someone records that fourth win.

“Everybody knows what’s going to happen,” said Vegas forward Chandler Stephenson, who scored twice Saturday in the 3-2 victory that put his team in position to clinch. You’re just trying to play. That’s kind of the biggest thing. There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of everything. I think being at home as well, the fans, it’s everyone is going to be there.”

Imagine the parties if the Golden Knights are there. A victory parade on the famous Srian could be huge.

The Golden Knights were the first major league professional team to settle in Las Vegas, and they sparked a sporting frenzy. They are followed by the Raiders, who reached 2020, and the 2022 WNBA champion Aces.

The Oakland Athletics announced plans to move here, changed those plans, and changed the changes. Disagreements over how much taxpayer money is getting for a new stadium and where to play have put the whole thing in jeopardy.

UFC opened its headquarters in Las Vegas in 2017 and has since added an events and production center.

The NBA, which built the Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center into a must-see event, will hold a fan-friendly conference next month at Mandalay Bay. NBA Con “brings together the fashion, music, food, art and technology that make the NBA a cultural phenomenon,” according to a league press release.

The NBA has not made any commitments about moving or expanding here, but it is clear that league executives are interested in the market.

two people in Golden Knights hockey jerseys cheer, one holding up a plastic flamingo

Vegas Golden Knights fans celebrate after the team defeated the Florida Panthers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

In the meantime, the Golden Knights have established a strong presence. Their logo and gift shops are everywhere around town, and they played to 104% capacity during the regular season with a purpose-built fan base around on local residents rather than corporations or seats with a casino.

During the pregame show, the public address announcer calls for cheers from different groups on the field – high-level sections, low-level sections, men, women. Martinez said he tunes out most of the sound but the fans’ responses are coming through. “You hear that when they say, ‘Tourists,’ and everyone screams, and when they say, ‘Local,’ and the whole place erupts. That is a good indication of how they feel,” he said.

There are other signs that the Golden Knights have built a strong enough foundation to survive a competitive downturn.

“To me, the most amazing thing is when you drive around and see the [special] license plates,” said Nate Ewell, the team’s vice president of communications and content. “We just got an update on this: There are over 60,000 license plates in the state of Nevada with Golden Knights logos on them. And of course, people have to pay extra for that. The most popular one is the ‘Welcome to Vegas’ sign.”

Ewell has been working for the team for about two years, so he was not involved in the first pregame and in-game entertainment. Being immersed in it now, he gets why it works. “It feels real. It feels right to be in the city and have that kind of experience,” he said. “It feels a lot more terrifying than what you see on TV.

“They really wanted to embrace the city and make sure we showed Vegas, we embraced Vegas. We did not hide from him. We didn’t say, ‘OK, this is going to be traditional hockey in another market.’ It’s going to be a different look in a different market.”

Martinez lives a ways from the Strip, close to bike and walking trails. He can eat at a world-class restaurant or see a show and be home in 20 minutes, without sitting in traffic for an hour on the 110 or 405 freeways. you could ask for a better situation,” he said. said. “It’s an incredible place to play. “

Good hockey can be combined with innovative entertainment that hits all the right notes. Viva Las Vegas, for the glorious excess of the city and the Golden Knights creating a non-traditional model for winning hockey.

This story first appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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