The Vegas Golden Knights made history on Sunday afternoon when they won Game 5 of their conference finals series over the Winnipeg Jets, earning a 4-1 series win and a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.
As an expansion team, the Golden Knights pulled off the stunning feat of making the finals in the franchise’s first year in existence, something that no one predicted entering the season. Expansion teams are supposed to be bad, with the hopes that they can pull a few foundational players out of the draft and expansion draft to give themselves something to build off of. In Vegas, the thought was they would sell off their veteran players at the trade deadline to try and acquire more draft picks and future assets, but instead, they went on a tear and became buyers at the deadline.
The result has been the story of the year in hockey and truly one of the most incredible stories in recent sports history. For Vegas residents and fans, the Golden Knights going to the Stanley Cup Finals is a Cinderella story come true. For the Vegas sportsbooks, though, it’s a nightmare.
The Golden Knights opened the season at the bottom of the Stanley Cup odds, as low as 500-1 in some books, and that has produced a massive amount of liability in the books as tons of Vegas residents purchased themselves a little lottery ticket on the Knights in support of the hometown team. Now, that crazy shot in the dark is suddenly a near pick ’em (the Knights will be favored against the Capitals and slight dogs against the Lightning) and the sportsbooks are preparing for pain if the Knights pull it off.
That’s quite the statement but the numbers seem to back it up. Each book has at least one ticket outstanding that would pay $50,000 if the Knights win and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
For anyone out there with a longshot ticket on the Golden Knights, this is the time to hedge, not to be cute and blindly support the home team. The books hope everyone rides it out and the Lightning or Capitals beat the Knights, but even if Vegas does go on to win the Cup, it could help the books long term. It’s rare for a team to repeat as Stanley Cup champs and a Year 1 win would likely create quite the market for Vegas futures in the next few years, so while they may be in for a painful June, the books (as tends to happen) still might come out on top in the long run.