The day before the inaugural Vegas Golden Knights home game, I was approached by an older man outside of T-Mobile Arena. He was extremely Canadian, and quite curious what a New Orleans boy was doing at a hockey game. I assume that he assumed all we do is watch football while eating crawfish while throwing Mardi Gras beads while being haunted.
The explanation is that I love sports, don’t have a hockey team, and visit Las Vegas enough to apparently pass the test at the Golden Knights adoption center. The Golden Knights are leaning on people like me to buy merchandise, get emotionally invested, and follow the team no matter how long it takes for them to get good. Last year I ponied up for quarter-season tickets when the unnamed team was doing a ticket drive, last week I purchased Center Ice, and last night I attended the inaugural home game. So far this is working out well for all parties involved.
The old Canadian guy told me that he was “born with skates on,” and that I could ask him anything I wanted. He believes hockey is a complicated sport and he’s happy to have more fans for the Knights. He hopes to follow the Golden Knights in addition to his Maple Leafs. This seems to be the general vibe of everyone I talk to in Sin City for the first home game of the first professional sports team to call Vegas home. The old Canadian guy talks very fast.
The next day I took in all of the official team festivities. There was the Golden Carpet that the players walked down to sign autographs. There was a marching band that paraded up to the entrance. The Blue Man Group was there too; I saw them get out of an SUV which bummed me out even though I don’t know anything about the Blue Man Group.
I met many more people who don’t live here. The couple in the Bruins jerseys are here because they wanted to witness history; same with the guy in the Ducks jersey, and the girl in the Blackhawks jersey. When a Wizards fan wears a John Wall jersey to an Nuggets/Heat game in Miami, they are obnoxious. When a Capitals fan wears an Alex Ovechkin jersey to an Avalanche/Panthers game in Denver, they are members of the same tribe and you nod your heads towards each other and talk hockey.
In the arena, before the game, Carrot Top starred in the team’s attempt at a humorous “fan code of conduct” video. It wasn’t the best use of Carrot Top’s talents which is a sentence I can’t believe I’m typing. In the video ole’ vegetable head ran across the ice nude, somehow heaved a pumpkin over the glass, and then maybe urinated on himself because he thought the line of people who were submitting complains (about him) was the line for the restroom.
Expansion teams have a lot of work to do in terms of establishing rituals. There’s a 90 percent chance it’s going to be awkward no matter what, as non-organic fan traditions are easily subjected to ridicule. Fans didn’t seem to be enthusiastic about the Golden Knights attempted parody of “Sweet Caroline” which featured replacing the words “Sweet Caroline” with “Sweet Golden Knights.” Over/under on how many more games they try this is set at 3.5.
Rumor has it that this Friday’s game is going to feature a lot of the swings at tradition, as last night’s non-game activity was mostly based around remembering the victims from the terrorist act on October 1st. For mascot reveals and swords getting pulled out of stones (probably?) wait until this weekend. For the moving #VegasStrong video that opened the game:
The most emotional part of the evening was the player introductions which the team merged with honoring first responders.
Then only a few minutes into the game, this happened:
Then it happened again. And again. This was the hockey equivalent of Steve Gleason blocking the Atlanta Falcons punt the first game back in New Orleans post-Katrina. We’re not pitting tragedies against each other here, but it’s hard to not catch feelings thinking about a city getting an opportunity to come together like this when they need it the most. Sports, y’all.