How I Came To Be A Golden Knights Fan (And It's Not Because They're In The Stanley Cup Final)

Image result for knights campbell bowl
I never thought that I would have to prove that I've been following the Vegas Golden Knights all season, long before they hoisted the Clarence Campbell Bowl as the NHL's Western Conference Champions, but here we are.

When the Las Vegas franchise was announced I was excited. Not because I had any connection to Las Vegas, I've never been there, but because I have an interest in sports business and I was looking forward to seeing how a National Hockey League team would be built from the ground up in not only a non-traditional hockey market, but a non-traditional sports market.

I watched as the team was selected at the NHL Awards (in Las Vegas fittingly) and when the thirty picks had been made, headlined by Marc-Andre Fleury (who despite being a Pittsburgh Penguin for his entire career, I have had a signed picture of him in my room since I was like ten years-old. Thanks Uncle Jon!), I thought to myself, that group doesn't look too bad.

Now, don't mistake that last sentence as me claiming that I predicted a Golden Knight playoff appearance back in June of last year. My idea of good for them would be that maybe they could be a playoff bubble team. Maybe.

I still decided that Vegas would be my Western Conference team. The team I turned to when I wanted to watch a late game as a way of putting off any papers I had to write for another few hours. I was excited for the season to start, so much so that I even listened to Vegas pre-season games on the radio.

We all know what happened in Las Vegas on October 1st, just a few days before the Golden Knights would take to the ice for the first time in Dallas to take on the Stars. The brand new team of players took it upon themselves to lift the spirits of an entire city, and in their first game that's just what they did with a win over the Stars capped off by a James Neal game-winning goal.

Good for them, I thought. What a great start for a franchise.

Next, were the Arizona Coyotes, and Vegas won in another close game.

Wow, two in a row!, I thought this time, Let's see if they can keep it up at home.

The Golden Knights first home game took place about a week after the shooting. The visitors that night were the Arizona Coyotes.

After an emotional program ceremony honoring those who were lost, the puck was dropped in front of roaring, sell out crowd at T-Mobile Arena. As soon as the puck hit the ice, the Golden Knights never took their foot off the gas for the rest of the season.

Tomas Nosek scored early in the first period in what would be a sound beating of the Coyotes. I watch quite a bit of hockey over the course of the season, and this was one of the most dominating performances I saw this year. I'm well aware that the Coyotes struggled during the first half of the year under first year head coach Rick Tocchet, but the speed with which Vegas played that night made me think to myself, They might be better than we all thought!

Even early season adversity couldn't slow down the Golden Knights. Fleury was injured a few weeks into the season and replaced by recently-acquired Malcolm Subban, who would also go down with injury. Subban would be followed by Maxime Lagace. League would suffer an injury and would be replaced by Oskar Dansk on Vegas' first east coast road trip. There were so many injuries that Vegas was forced to call up goalie Dylan Ferguson, from the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, on an emergency basis.

After all of that, Vegas still found themselves in the hunt for a Pacific Division Championship.

Vegas shattered expansion team record after expansion team record. It got to the point that it was almost easy to forget that this was their first season. They were a team who played so well together and were so well coached that it seemed like they had been together for years. Emerging players like Jonathan Marchesault continued where they left off with their previous teams, while other players, like William "Wild Bill" Karlsson, had career years out of nowhere.

At this point everyone is aware, of the Golden Knight's post-season success. Three series wins and only three losses. That's a 12-3 record.

There's a lot of discussion over whether or not Vegas' early success is good or bad for the NHL. How could it be anything but great? It's a great story that is putting hockey in more people's news feeds and the proved that the NHL's Las Vegas experiment wasn't just a success for the league, but one for the sport of hockey overall and for the city of Las Vegas who needed something to cheer for in their darkest hour.

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