Inside the Sports World
by Bruce Penton
Fans showing up for Vegas Golden Knights games at T-Mobile Arena get more than just a hockey game. They get a show. Hey, it’s Vegas. Showtime!
Expansion teams are usually cellar dwellers for a couple of seasons, so the Vegas brainchild made sure fans would be treated to an unforgettable night out at the brand new arena, even if the hockey was forgettable and the losses piled up.
But something strange has happened. Wins, not losses, have piled up. In what might arguably be called the greatest surprising success story in sports — in the NHL at least, for sure — the Golden Knights have molded their crew of castoffs, rejects, third-liners and prospects into an NHL power, which speaks volumes for the brainpower of GM George McPhee, his assistant Kelly McCrimmon, and the coaching staff led by Gerard Gallant.
Whether the home team wins or loses, though, a Golden Knights home game is three hours of solid entertainment — some of which happens on the ice. It starts with well-oiled and enthusiastic fans gathering on the plaza in front of the arena, follows with constant clips and messages from a variety of stars on the Knight- Tron scoreboard video system, a full-throated screaming of “KNIGHTS!” when the national anthem gets to “… gave proof through the KNIGHTS,” and more. Lots more. Videos of fans whooping it up are a staple on the giant screen, because a pre-game message implores fans to “act like you’ve just won the jackpot” if they get their five seconds of bigscreen fame.
A five-man drum band keeps the beat flowing through the game — there are many bone-shaking vibrations, but no lulls — and the overly enthusiastic public address announcer turns it over to the crowd to yell the words ‘POWER PLAY!’ at the end of a commercial message at the start of a home team extra-man situation.
This is Vegas, so intermission provides opportunity for more entertainment. On this night, when the Knights were playing LA, a Cirque du Soleil team from the Mirage show ‘Love’ performed a variety of acrobatic moves right on the ice. Later, a fan sitting with the Zamboni driver unfurled a sign proposing marriage to his girlfriend, all caught up close and personal on the giant KnightTron screen, which then zeroed in on the woman. Luckily, the Knights’ mascot had the engagement ring and presented it to the teary-eyed woman. She said yes!
It’s easy to see why Vegas has the best home-ice record in the league. The noisy fans, the atmosphere, the musical distractions and the overall constant, drumbeat action give Gallant’s team a definite seventh-man edge. The starry-eyed opponents probably need a period or two to find their focus.
In Vegas, plunk down your $90 for the action. And stay for the game.
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